Yemen PM accuses Huthis of 'escalation' with Aden car bomb

Cairo (AFP) –

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Yemen's internationally-recognised prime minister on Monday accused the Iran-backed Huthi rebels of escalating his country's conflict with a deadly car bomb attack in the southern city of Aden.

"This is an escalation of violence by Huthi militias... A radical government in Iran is pushing the Huthis towards more violence," Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed told reporters in Cairo, a day after the blast that left six dead.

The bombing targeted a convoy of Aden governor Ahmed Lamlas and Salem al-Socotri, a government minister, both of whom survived, a security source said.

Aden, the main city in southern Yemen, is home to a separatist movement that last year precariously integrated into the government.

Both have long been aligned against Huthi rebels in a grinding civil war.

On the battlefield, the Huthis have intensified a campaign to take Marib city, capital of an oil-rich province of the same name and government loyalists' final toehold in northern Yemen.

"We are confident that Marib will not fall. We are prepared to counter the Huthi campaign," the premier said, although he has warned: "The fate of the battle will determine the future of Yemen."

The Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government said Monday that 156 Huthi rebels were killed in 33 air strikes in the past 24 hours.

Regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have shown signs of warming relations in past months, but Saeed was sceptical this would ease the fighting.

"We don't want Yemen to end up being a bargaining chip. Sadly, Yemen has fallen on the priorities list of regional concerns," added Saeed, who was on an official visit to Egypt.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced since 2014 in Yemen's conflict, dubbed the world's worst humanitarian disaster by the United Nations.