The governor of Yemen’s port city of Aden, Major General Jaafar Mohammed Saad, was killed on Sunday in a car-bomb attack along with five of his bodyguards.
The automobile assault occurred in Aden’s Tawahi district in the country’s south.
Tawahi has become a stronghold in recent months for armed groups, including al-Qaeda whose fighters have expanded their presence across the district.
Earlier reports said six bodyguards were killed along with Saad in a rocket-propelled grenade attack.Saad was only recently appointed governor and was known to be close to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who returned to Aden last month after several months in exile in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Pro-Hadi forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have battled Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since March, after the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and advanced south – forcing Hadi’s government to flee.
Saad’s death comes a day after the country’s UN envoy held talks with Hadi in Aden aimed at kickstarting peace talks between the warring sides.
On Saturday, masked gunmen on motorcycles carried out separate attacks on vehicles in Aden, killing Colonel Aqeel al-Khodr, a military intelligence official, and Judge Mohsen Alwan, who was known for sentencing al-Qaeda fighters.
Three other people were killed in the attack on Alwan, which was not immediately claimed.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Sanaa, Hisham al-Omeisy, a Yemeni political analyst, said the assassination of the governor fell in the pattern of political killings in Aden in recent months.
“Major General Jaafar Mohammed Saad was pro-secession of the south of Yemen and was under a lot of pressure,” Omeisy said, speaking to Al Jazeera from Sanaa.
“He was blocked from getting to his office several times in the past weeks and his movement in the city was very restricted. To a lot of people in Aden, this attack does not come as much of a surprise,” Omeisy added.
“There is a security vacuum in Aden. Al-Qaeda and other militias are running freely. So it’s very unstable and therefore no surprise that the governor was targeted after we’ve seen several assassinations over the past two months,” he said.
“It’s likely going to get even worse, especially now that al-Qaeda has taken over in two cities just a few kilometres away from Aden. So they’ll be moving into Aden and I think you’ll see a war in the streets there very soon.” AL JAZEERA