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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 31 (APP): The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, have strongly condemned Wednesday’s deadly attack on Yemen’s Aden airport, which resulted in the deaths of at least 26 people, and injured more than 50.

According to media reports, loud explosions and gunfire were heard at the airport and clouds of smoke were seen shortly after a plane from Saudi Arabia landed, carrying members of the country’s new government. The passengers are reported to have been safely transferred to the presidential palace.

The internationally recognized government and southern separatists formed a power-sharing cabinet on December 18, forging a joint front against the Houthis who have seized the capital Sanaa and much of the north.

Yemen’s government spokesman Rajih Badi called for an international investigation into the “terrorist” attack he said targeted “all members of the cabinet,” according to the media reports.

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“It is too soon to accuse any party before an investigation reveals who executed the attack, including (accusing) the Huthis,” he said, adding those injured included civilians, security guards and local officials.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Guterres expressed his condemnation of the “deplorable attack” and Griffiths, in a separate statement, joined the UN chief in expressing their outrage.

Both UN officials offered their sincere condolences and solidarity to all who lost loved ones.

“I wish the Cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead”, Griffiths said.

“This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”

Guterres reiterated the steadfast commitment of the United Nations to support efforts to resume a Yemeni-led and Yemeni-owned political process to reach an inclusive, negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation, has been riven by conflict since 2015, when fighting erupted between a Saudi-backed coalition supporting the internationally-recognized Government and the Houthi rebel group known formally as Ansar Allah.

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Figures released by the UN humanitarian office, OCHA, in early December, suggest that more than 230,000 Yemenis have died due to the war, the majority – some 131,000 – through indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure.

Over 3,000 children have been killed, and 1,500 civilian casualties have been reported in the first nine months of this year.

The attack on Aden airport is an ominous sign of the scale of challenges facing the Yemeni authorities, which have been forced to work mainly in exile, from Saudi Arabia, the UN said.

It comes after a period of relative calm, and months of negotiations aimed at bringing about a peace deal, mediated by the Office of the Special Envoy.