Three suicide bombings by the "Islamic State" have struck checkpoints held by loyalist forces in Aden. The group appears to be fighting back after recent setbacks in Yemen.
Friday's attacks - which killed 22 people, including 10 civilians, according to local sources - come three days after the Saudi-led coalition attacked an al Qaeda base in the jihadi group's stronghold in southeastern Yemen.
"IS fighters have launched three martyrdom operations and an attack on a base of the coalition in Aden," Amaq, a news agency linked to the "Islamic State," reported online. Amaq also reported that at least 27 people had died in the attacks.
On Tuesday, a US airstrike on the Qaeda camp in the southeastern province of Hadramawt killed more than 70 fighters in a major blow to the extremist group.
Saudi Arabia has been leading the US- and UK-backed coalition of 10 Arab states in a bombing campaign against the Shiite-dominated Houthi forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But the coalition only began targeting jihadists for the first time last week, in the country's second city, Aden.
Al Qaeda and IS have reportedly exploited the conflict between rebels and coalition-backed loyalist forces to reinforce their presence in the south and east of the country. Saudi Arabia fears that emboldened Houthis will give its regional rival, Iran, a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.
In one of the blasts, a vehicle blew up as it arrived at a military checkpoint in the Buraiqa area in northwestern Aden, according to witnesses and security sources.
The other two bombings hit checkpoints along the road to a base used by the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen. Apache helicopters belonging to the coalition carried out strikes on the positions of gunmen in the surrounding area as IS fighters tried to advance toward the base.
A third explosive device, planted in an ambulance, was detonated at a checkpoint near Mansura, in central Aden, the official said.
Hopes for a breakthrough in the conflict surfaced Wednesday after UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the warring parties had agreed on a ceasefire that would be observed before peace talks start on April 18.
The United Nations reports that about 6,300 people have been killed since last March, with civilians accounting for more than half.
jbh/cmk (AFP, Reuters)