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Death toll rises after Yemen suicide attack

Officials have raised the death toll in southern Yemen to 45 people, saying dozens more were injured in a suicide attack carried out at a funeral. They have said the suspect was targeting the head of a tribal group.

A suicide bomber killed 45 people attending a funeral in Yemen's southern province of Abyan overnight, Yemen's defense ministry said on Sunday. It added the blast injured dozens more, but did not give an official count. Earlier estimates had said that between 20 and 30 people had died.

The local government reacted with dismay at the tragedy, saying it was determined to identify the suicide bomber, who it's thought was linked to al Qaeda.

"This is a cowardly, criminal, terrorist attack," Abyan governor Jamal al-Aqel told news agency Reuters.

The bomber was suspected of targeting Abdullatif Al-Sayed, the leader of a tribal group that openly opposes the terrorist group.

Al-Sayed, who was injured in the bombing, heads the tribal fighting units known as "Popular Committees," which have supported the Yemeni government's efforts to eradicate al Qaeda militants from the country.

Fears al Qaeda may retake town

Yemen's government announced in June that it had regained control of the city of Jaar, where Sunday's suicide attack occurred, and the nearby provincial capital of Zinjibar, both of which had been occupied by alleged al Qaeda fighters since May.

Militants launched another attack on Jaar's police station last week, prompting fears that the fighters were preparing to try to retake the town.

Islamist militants from the Ansar al-Sharia group, believed to be tied to al Qaeda, are particularly active in Yemen, and seized a string of settlements across the country last year. The subsequent Yemeni military campaign designed to drive them away was supported by the US.

Elsewhere in Yemen on Saturday, local officials said that a US drone fired on a car carrying suspected militants in the Hadramout province. Both officials said all the passengers were killed, though they differed on the number of people on board. US drones regularly patrol the area and have carried out several such strikes in the south and east of Yemen in recent months.

kms, msh/ccp (AFP, Reuters)