Sana'a bomb attack targets military parade

Sixty-three people die and 60 are wounded as suicide bomber in uniform explodes device among soldiers in Yemen capital

At least 63 people have been killed and more than 60 wounded in Sana'a after a suicide bomber in military uniform targeted soldiers rehearsing for a military parade in the Yemeni capital.

A Yemeni official told Associated Press that the bomber was a soldier who had been taking part in the drill at a main square near the presidential palace.

At least 38 Yemeni soldiers died in the attack. Yemen's minister of defence and chief of staff were present but were unhurt, a military source said.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was due to attend the ceremony, which was scheduled for Tuesday and which marks the 22nd anniversary of the country's unity.

According to one witness, the bomber entered the middle of the parade as it was coming to an end, and blew himself up as the soldiers were saluting their superiors.

"We were in a parade, suddenly there was a huge explosion. Dozens of our men were killed. We tried to help them," said a man who identified himself as Colonel Amin al-Alghabati, his hands and uniform flecked with blood.

"The suicide bomber was dressed in a military uniform. He had a belt of explosives underneath," he said.

The blast site was covered with blood, hats and shoes, and body parts were spread over a 20-30m radius. The area was cordoned off with yellow tape and a forensic team was examining the site.

A spokesman for the interior ministry told Reuters that the attack "carried all the hallmarks of al-Qaida", but insisted the parade would go ahead on Tuesday as planned.

"Yemenis must stand together in the face of this deadly terrorist threat," said Brigadier Karim Nahil. "We will celebrate our unity tomorrow with the blood of our martyrs on our hands and faces."

The military hospital was quickly overwhelmed by the number of casualties and ambulances were seen rushing to and from the scene.

Yemen is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the US views as a major security threat in both the region and on US soil.

Militants have exploited political instability in Yemen to gain a foothold in a country paralysed for most of 2011 by protests that eventually unseated President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The attack coincided with a US-backed Yemeni army offensive against al-Qaida-linked militants in the south of the country, where they control several towns. Troops closed in on one of their strongholds on Sunday in heavy fighting.

Yemeni security officials also revealed on Monday that militants opened fire on three US Coast Guard trainers in the west of the country, wounding one.

The officials said the shooting took place on Sunday in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. The three Americans were travelling in a car near their hotel when the militants pulled up in another vehicle and sprayed them with machine-gun fire.

The officials had no word on the condition of the wounded American.


Tom Finn in Sana'a, and Sam Jones

The GuardianTramp

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