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Suicide blast in Yemen

August 5, 2012

Officials and medics in southern Yemen say at least 35 people were killed and dozens injured in an explosion, with one witness saying the attacker targeted a funeral.

People inspect the site of a suicide bombing in Yemen's southern city of Jaar
Image: Reuters

Saturday's explosion in the town of Jaar claimed at least 35 lives and injured dozens more, according to officials and medical personnel. Earlier, the governor of the province had put the toll at 20 dead and 20 injured.

In a statement posted on the Yemeni Defense Ministry's website overnight Saturday, the governor, Jamal al-Aqal, said that officials had launched an investigation to ascertain the final death toll and to identify the culprits of a "criminal and cowardly attack."

Witness reports from Jaar seemed to suggest that a suicide bomber had targeted a funeral honoring an army auxiliary leader. Locals said most of the casualties were tribal fighters.

"The suicide bomber belonged to the al Qaeda network," one person told the AFP news agency, saying the attack was possibly retaliation against the local fighters, who helped the Yemeni army regain control of the town from militants.

Yemen's government announced in June that it had regained control of Jaar 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.

msh/tj (AFP, Reuters)