The medical charity Doctors Without Borders said dozens of wounded people were brought to one of its hospitals in the city. Photographs posted on local news websites showed the mutilated bodies of soldiers and a large crater near what appeared to be barracks.
A separate attack on a police station in Aden earlier Thursday, apparently carried out by a suicide bomber, killed at least 10 people, according to Jamal Khudabaksh, Aden’s director of public health. It was not clear whether the attacks were related.
The Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, based in northern Yemen, asserted responsibility for the missile strike. The strike underscored the Houthis’ continued ability to launch sophisticated attacks on adversaries, despite a years-long military campaign by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition against the rebels.
The attack, and the high death toll, also threatened efforts led by the United Nations to bring Yemen’s warring parties together for negotiations to end the conflict — a war that has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and caused thousands of civilian deaths.
The Houthis seized control of Yemen’s capital and other parts of the country beginning in 2014, ousting the Saudi-backed government. They continue to control a large swath of territory in northern Yemen and regularly launch missiles and armed drones across the border toward cities in Saudi Arabia.
The strike Thursday targeted the Security Belt, a local force trained and supported by the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition. The UAE recently announced that it was drawing down its forces in Yemen, although it continues to control proxy militias, mainly in southern Yemen.
A commander of the Security Belt, Brig. Gen. Munir al-Yafei, was killed in the attack, according to Yasser al-Yafei, a local journalist who said he witnessed the missile strike.
The Houthis said the attack was carried out using a drone and a medium-range ballistic missile, according to the Houthis’ official al-Masirah news outlet. A commander quoted in the report said the strike was intended to prevent an imminent advance by troops from the south.
Yafei, the journalist, said the attack occurred during a graduation ceremony at a military base. The missile struck shortly after Brig. Gen. Yafei — known as Abu al-Yamama — had stepped down from the podium, he said. A few minutes later, “a huge explosion occurred directly behind the podium,” the journalist said.
Ali Al-Mujahed reported from New Delhi.