Sana'a suicide bomb attack kills more than 90

Bomber targets military parade near presidential palace in Yemeni capital, dealing a blow to hopes of political transition

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military parade rehearsal in Yemen's capital yesterday, killing more than 90 soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks in the city in years.

The bomber, dressed in military attire, made his way to the back of the military parade, near the presidential palace in Sana'a, before detonating explosives strapped to his chest. The explosion was small, but the suicide bomber's proximity to those around him meant it was devastating.

"Fifty men died right there on the spot," said Colonel Mohammed al-Kibsi, pointing to the blackened scar the bomb had left on the tarmac, his hands and uniform splattered in blood. "This was a massacre … The brave soldiers of our fatherland died this morning in cold blood."

By nightfall more than 90 men had died of their injuries.

The bombing, which wounded another 200, was the bloodiest incident in the city in years and dealt a serious blow to a political transition under way after a year of violent political upheaval that unseated Yemen's dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after 33 years in office.

Local Arabic press reported al-Qaeda as saying it had carried out the attack, though none of the group's senior members has yet verified the claim.

The bombing was the first pedestrian suicide bomb attack in Sana'a since April 2010, when a man blew himself up in an attempted attack on the British ambassador, Tim Torlot.

The parade was a rehearsal for a ceremony due to be held on Tuesday to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the country's unification between north and south. A spokesman for the interior ministry said the attack "carried all the hallmarks of al-Qaida", but insisted the parade would go ahead on today as planned.

Yemen's newly installed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was due to attend the celebrations, responded to the bomb attack by firing two senior commanders, both allies of his predecessor, Saleh. One of them, a nephew of Saleh's, was the head of national security, an elite intelligence gathering unit that works closely with the CIA.

"Our armed forces and security forces will become tougher and more determined in stamping out terrorists," the state news agency, Saba, quoted Hadi as telling the victims' families in a condolence message.

The scene of the attack, a 10-lane through road usually filled with heaving traffic was desperate and chaotic. Soldiers with blood on their uniforms stood in confusion among a scattering of fingers, feet and soldiers caps. The area was cordoned off with yellow tape and a forensic team was examining the site last night.

Many suspected that the bombing was a show of force by the terrorist organisation for a huge offensive launched last week by US-trained Yemeni army units to try and uproot Ansar al-Sharia, ("Partisans of Islamic Law") an al-Qaida-affiliated group that has seized on Yemen's unrest, taking towns and villages in the southern province of Abyan.

Dozens of militants, soldiers and civilians have been killed in the past week as Yemeni troops, backed by heavy artillery and warplanes, sweep east from the port city of Aden, use tanks and rockets to try to dislodge al-Qaida from the mountains of Abyan.

Sheltering among residents in local villages, the militants are fighting a guerrilla war, using artillery seized in raids on army outposts to stave off the army's advance.

The tussle for territory in the south is of grave concern to the Pentagon, which believes al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to have established the most dangerous base of operations in the Arab world.

The Obama administration recently stepped up a decade of US covert operations in Yemen, using unmanned drones flown across the Red Sea from Djibouti to target wanted insurgents. A plot last month by AQAP to blow up a US-bound airliner – the third attempt in as many years – was foiled by a CIA undercover agent masquerading as a suicide bomber.

Two Americans, part of a team of instructors in Yemen to train the country's coastguard, were injured on Sunday when al-Qaida militants sprayed their vehicle with bullets as they were driving through the Red Sea city of Hudaida, a Yemeni coastguard officer said.

They were the first US military personnel to be injured in Yemen since the bombing of the USS Cole, in 2000.


Tom Finn in Sana'a

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Agent in underwear bomb plot 'was British'

Claims that British passport holder played central role in mission that led to death of top al-Qaida operative in Yemen

Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Richard Norton-Taylor

10, May, 2012 @11:04 PM

Article image
Al-Qaida airline bomb plot thwarted by CIA

Plan hatched by Yemen affiliate of al-Qaida involved more sophisticated version of 2009 underwear bomb

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

07, May, 2012 @11:26 PM

Article image
Yemen suicide attack kills dozens
Bomber targets checkpoint operated by Shia Houthi rebels in centre of capital Sana’a, near where rally was about to be held

Peter Salisbury in Sana'a

09, Oct, 2014 @2:37 PM

Article image
Cargo plane bomb found in Britain was primed to blow up over US
Device thought to have been sent by Yemen-based al-Qaida made safe three hours from explosion

Vikram Dodd, Richard Norton-Taylor, and Paul Harris in New York

10, Nov, 2010 @8:39 PM

Article image
Yemen on 'high alert' over warning of imminent al-Qaida attack
US and British diplomatic personnel evacuated from Sana'a as Washington warns of 'specific and immediate threat'

Ian Black, Middle East editor, and Spencer Ackerman in Washington

07, Aug, 2013 @12:06 AM

Article image
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

Tom Finn in Sana'a, and Sam Jones

21, May, 2012 @10:57 AM

Article image
WikiLeaks cables: Yemen offered US 'open door' to attack al-Qaida on its soil

Dispatches reveal president's secret deal to let US launch missile attacks on Aqap, but claim it as Yemen's own work

Robert Booth and Ian Black

03, Dec, 2010 @9:30 PM

Article image
Yemen bomb scare 'mastermind' lived in London
Anwar al-Awlaki, who US officials suspect was behind the cargo plane bomb, has been linked to other terrorism plots

Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent

29, Oct, 2010 @10:48 PM

Article image
Al-Qaida links to Christmas Day plane bomb plot investigated
Nigerian's British links investigated as attention turns to al-Qaida's Yemen stronghold

Peter Walker and Chris McGreal

28, Dec, 2009 @12:17 AM

Suicide bomb attack on US embassy in Yemen kills 16

Attack, involving a double car bombing and machine-gun fire, bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida

Ian Black, Middle East editor

17, Sep, 2008 @11:01 PM