A car bombing claimed by the Islamic State group Sunday killed the governor of Yemen's second city Aden, a day after the UN's envoy visited to press for long-delayed peace talks.
A statement posted on Twitter by the jihadist group said it was behind a blast that hit the convoy of Jaafar Saad in the Tawahi neighbourhood of the major port, killing him and eight bodyguards.
In a statement carried by the official Saba news agency, Aden security chief General Mohamed Mussad confirmed Saad's death and said six of his guards were also killed.
Images circulated on social media showed a wrecked car on fire on a main road in the southern city.
Saad was only recently appointed governor, and was known to be close to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi who returned to Aden last month after several months in exile in Riyadh.
Pro-Hadi forces, aided by a Saudi-led coalition, have battled Iran-backed rebels in Yemen since March, after the insurgents overran the capital Sanaa and advanced south, forcing the government to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Fighting between the Huthi rebels and loyalist forces has plunged the impoverished nation into chaos, which jihadist groups have exploited to make sweeping gains, particularly in southern regions.
Aden's Tawahi district has become a known hideout for jihadists, including Al-Qaeda militants.
IS has claimed a string of attacks in Yemen, including the bombing of Hadi's government headquarters in October and multiple suicide attacks on mosques in Sanaa attended by Shiite worshippers that killed 142 people.
It also claimed the killing of 50 soldiers in a November ambush in southeastern Hadramawt province.
Its statement on Sunday threatened more attacks.
The United Arab Emirates, whose forces are playing a pivotal role in supporting Hadi and are present in Aden, condemned Saad's killing.
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"Such crimes will not weaken our common determination to bring back security and stability to the Yemen," said the UAE's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash.
Saad's killing represents another blow for Hadi, who has struggled to secure the city since his forces and allies launched a widespread operation in July to retake five southern provinces -- including Aden -- from the Huthis.
- New blow to Hadi -
The counterattack has stalled around Taez, a strategic southwestern city under siege by the rebels and their allies.
The bombing came a day after the UN envoy to Yemen held talks with Hadi in Aden aimed at kickstarting peace talks.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met Hadi to seek his agreement to convene negotiations with the rebels in Geneva next week, an official close to the president told AFP.
But the mission was "difficult", said the source, accusing the rebels of dragging their feet on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2216 which calls for them to withdraw from occupied territory.
Foreign Minister Abdel Malak al-Mekhlafi told AFP that "the putschists are refusing to lay down their arms or to allow the government to carry out its duties" from Sanaa.
"They have not announced their list of negotiators" for the talks "and are trying to escalate the situation on the ground by bombing residential districts of Taez".
In a protest sent to the UN, Yemen's minister in charge of human rights, Ezzedine al-Isbahi, condemned the "massacres and atrocities" allegedly committed in Taez by the rebels that he said had killed 33 civilians last week, including four children.
The United Nations says more than 5,700 people have been killed in Yemen, almost half of them civilians, since the Saudi-led air campaign began in March in support of the government.
In Aden on Saturday, gunmen shot dead the presiding judge of a terrorism court, Mohsen Mohamed Alwan, and four of his bodyguards, a security source said. Police Colonel Al-Khadher Ali Ahmed was gunned down in a separate attack.
And on Sunday, police colonel Antar al-Bakhshi was shot dead by gunmen in Inmaa district, west of Aden, a security official said.