Yemen was rocked by its worst terrorist bombing in years Monday when a suicide attacker disguised as a Yemeni soldier blew himself up in the midst of a military parade rehearsal near the presidential palace in Sana, the capital. Yemeni officials and hospitals said at least 96 people were killed and about 300 wounded.
Al-Qaeda's Yemen branch claimed responsibility for the attack. It has been fighting a bloody battle in recent days against the Yemeni military for control of towns in Yemen's lawless south. The United States, increasingly concerned about the militants' widening influence in Yemen, has assisted the fight with a stepped-up campaign of drone strikes and military assistance, says Denver Post.
Al-Qaida said the bomber was targeting Yemen's defense minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, who had arrived at the heavily secured city square to greet the assembled troops just minutes before the blast ripped through the area. He was unhurt.
Khaled Ali, another soldier, said the explosion was followed by heavy gunfire.
"In the mayhem, we were all running in all directions. I saw the guards of the minister surrounding him and forming a human cordon. They were firing in the air," he said.
The bombing comes as Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been pressing ahead on two difficult fronts - battling al-Qaida in the south and purging loyalists of ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from military and security top posts, according to ksl.com.
Witnesses said human remains were scattered across the site of the blast at Sanaa's Sabeen Square, where the Yemeni government often holds large military parades.
Yesterday's attack is Sanaa's most deadly since Mr Hadi took power in February with a pledge to fight Al-Qaeda's growing presence in the county.
Mr Hadi, who was elected in a single-candidate vote as stipulated by the Gulf-sponsored transition deal that forced Mr Saleh's ouster, was expected to give a speech at the military ceremony scheduled for today.
Yesterday it remained unclear if the parade will take place as planned, informs Times of Malta.