SANAA, Yemen — A huge explosion killed the governor of Yemen’s southern Aden province and six of his bodyguards Sunday, security officials said. A local Islamic State affiliate later claimed responsibility for the attack.
If the claim were true, it would constitute the most high-profile assassination by the Islamic State group in Yemen. The war-torn country is home to what the United States considers the most dangerous al-Qaeda offshoot, which controls parts of the country, mainly in the east and the south. However, the Islamic State’s local affiliate has been stepping up attacks lately.
Gov. Gaafar Mohamed Saad was traveling to his office Sunday when the explosion struck his convoy in the southern port city.
The Islamic State affiliate asserted responsibility for his death in a statement circulated online by supporters, saying the bomb was concealed in a parked car along the convoy’s route. The group referred to Saad as a “tyrant” and warned the “heads of the infidels” in Yemen that it would carry out “operations to chop off their rotten heads.”
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for many deadly bombings this year in Yemen. That includes explosions in September targeting worshipers in a mosque in the capital, Sanaa, that killed more than 20 people and suicide car bombings targeting exiled Yemeni officials and Saudi and Emirati troops, which killed at least 15 people in Aden in October.
The extremist group has been able to expand its reach in the chaos of Yemen’s larger conflict, between a loose array of pro-
government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite Houthi rebels, who control the capital, Sanaa, and large parts of northern Yemen. Pro-government forces drove the Houthis out of Aden earlier this year.
An al-Qaeda affiliate has a growing presence in Aden. On Saturday, gunmen in Aden killed a military intelligence official and a judge known for sentencing al-Qaeda militants. No one claimed those attacks.
The United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, condemned the killing of the Aden governor and described the perpetrators as “treacherous terrorists.”
The seven-state UAE federation and neighboring Saudi Arabia are leading a coalition backing the internationally recognized government.
The Emirati military has played a key role in helping to secure Aden.
Separately, officials in President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s office in Yemen say consultations with the Shiite rebels will begin Dec. 15 in Geneva and will focus on the implementation of a U.N. resolution aimed at ending months of heavy fighting.