Governor of Aden killed in car bombing claimed by ISIL

Gaafar Mohammed Saad died when a bomb struck his convoy while he was on the way to work.

People gather at the site of a car bomb attack that killed the governor of Yemen's southern port city of Aden Gaafar Mohammed Saad on December 6, 2015. Nasser Awad / Reuters
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ADEN // ISIL claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack that killed the governor of Aden and six of his guards on Sunday.

A statement posted on Twitter by the group said it was behind the blast that struck the convoy of Gaafar Mohammed Saad as it travelled through Aden’s Al Tawahi neighbourhood on Sunday. The governor was on his way to work.

Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, condemned the assassination and offered his condolences to the Yemeni president, and the families of the deceased.

The director of Aden’s security office Mohammed Mosaed told The National: “At 9.15am a car bomb driven by a suicide bomber blocked the way of Saad’s convoy, which consisted of three cars, in Al Tawahi district, and the car bomb targeted the car of Saad.”

He said that the governor’s car was completely burn and the six bodyguards inside the car have been killed in addition to the governor. “The Yemeni president Abdrabu Mansour Hadi held a meeting with the heads of Aden’s security and formed a committee to follow the matter,” he said.

Al Tawahi has in recent months become a stronghold for extremists including Al Qaeda, whose fighters have expanded their presence across the port city despite efforts by the Saudi-led coalition that backs the government and local security forces to contain them.

Saad was appointed governor on October 9 and was known to be close to Mr Hadi, who returned to Aden last month after several months in exile in Riyadh.

Also on Sunday, Yemeni police Colonel Al Khadher Ali Ahmed was gunned down in a separate attack. It is not known if the two incidents are linked. The attack also followed two separate assassinations on Saturday by masked gunmen on motorcycles. Col Aqeel Al Khodr, a military intelligence official, was killed in one attack and Judge Mohsen Alwan — known for sentencing Al Qaeda militants — was killed in another along with three others.

Saad’s death comes a day after the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, held talks with Mr Hadi in Aden about peace talks aimed at ending the conflict between the government and Houthi rebels.

Fadhl Al Rabei, an Aden-based political analyst and the head of Madar Strategic Studies Centre, said that in the chaos after the Houthis were driven from the city by forces fighting with the internationally recolonised government, Al Qaeda fighters gained a presence.

Mr Al Rabei cast doubt on ISIL being responsible for Saad’s assassination. Instead, he accused the Houthis and their ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of using militant groups in Aden to spread more chaos in the city.

“I hope that the coalition forces help the Yemeni army and start with liberating Aden from the all armed groups, especially the armed groups in Al Tawahi districts. And when they finish the liberation of Aden completely ... they can go towards other provinces like Taez,” Mr Al Rabei said.

In October, a group claiming to be an affiliate of ISIL carried out a series of suicide car bombings in Aden including an attack on the Al Qasr hotel where government ministers were based. The attacks also killed 15 troops, including four Emiratis, from the Saudi-led coalition which is trying to restore the government of Mr Hadi.

“Aden is not large province and there are not rural areas in the province that the fighters of ISIL can hide behind them, so it is easy for the security forces to follow the attackers,” Mr Al Rabei added.

More than 5,700 people have been killed in Yemen, almost half of them civilians, since the Saudi-led air campaign was launched in March in support of the government, according to the United Nations.