At least 38 soldiers were killed and dozens of others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a military parade drill in the Yemeni capital Sanaa today.
The attacker was a soldier who was taking part in the drill, lining up with fellow troops at a main square in the capital, not far from the presidential palace, said officials.
The bomber detonated his explosives minutes before the arrival of the defence minister and the chief of staff, who were expected to greet the troops, the officials said.
The drill was a rehearsal for a parade for the celebration of Yemen’s National Day tomorrow.
The attack left a scene of carnage, with scores of bleeding soldiers lying on the ground as ambulances rushed to the scene.
Meanwhile, Yemeni security officials said three US Coast Guard trainers came under attack by militants belonging to an al Qaida front group in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida yesterday.
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. One was injured, the officials said.
In Sanaa, no-one immediately claimed responsibility for today’s suicide bombing, but the soldiers targeted were mostly troops from Yemen’s Central Security, a paramilitary force commanded by Yahya Saleh, a nephew of ousted president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mr Saleh stepped down in February as part of a US-backed power-transfer deal brokered by Gulf Arab countries. It gave him immunity from prosecution in return for relinquishing his power.
Since then, the new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has pledged to restructure the army and purge it of Mr Saleh’s family members and loyalists suspected of hindering reforms.
Mr Hadi has also vowed to step up the fight against al Qaida, which expanded its foothold after exploiting the political and security turmoil in the wake of the uprising against Mr Saleh.
Since the revolt erupted, inspired by other Arab Spring uprisings, al Qaida militants overran large swaths of territory and several towns and cities in the south, pushing out government forces and establishing their own rule.
In recent weeks, the army has launched a concerted effort to uproot the militants from their strongholds – and is closely co-ordinating with a small contingent of US troops who are helping guide the operations from inside Yemen.