The Russian-made Antonov aircraft plunged from the sky and crashed into an empty market in al-Hassaba district at the heart of the Yemeni capital, destroying several shops, the officials said. The market has been abandoned since clashes between the country’s biggest tribal confederation and security forces in the area during last year’s uprising.
The officials said the pilot tried to make an emergency landing after one of the plane’s engines failed, but instead, the plane crashed and caught fire. The victims included the pilots and crew members, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Ambulances and fire engines rushed to the crash site.
There was no indication of sabotage in the crash, the officials said.
The Arab world most impoverished nation, Yemen has been challenged by a rising al Qaeda in the aftermath of the uprising that led to the ouster of the country’s longtime authoritarian ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The United States considers Yemen’s offshoot of al-Qaida as the world’s most dangerous branch of the terror network.
Yemen’s military has been engaged in a wide offensive against al Qaeda since last spring, and has managed to uproot the militants from strongholds in the south they seized during the uprising.
Since then, al Qaeda has been blamed for a series of assassinations and suicide bombings that targeted top Yemeni military, intelligence and security officials, as well as military camps and security headquarters.