Yemen’s president attended a Unification Day military parade in Sana’a today, a day after scores of soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber during a rehearsal for the event.
Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi was accompanied by senior government and military officials, the state-run Saba news agency said. He vowed yesterday to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, whose Yemeni affiliate claimed responsibility for the bombing in an e- mailed statement, saying its target was Defense Minister Mohammed Naser Ahmed.
The minister and Chief of Staff Ahmed al-Ashwal both escaped uninjured, the Defense Ministry said on its website. It said the bombing near the presidential palace in Yemen’s capital killed more than 90 people and wounded about 220.
Yemen’s army has been battling militants associated with the local al-Qaeda affiliate, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the government fights to recapture cities in the southern province of Abyan. Government forces and allied fighters forced al-Qaeda militants to flee the suburbs outside the city of Lawdar on May 17.
The perpetrators “wanted to turn the joy of our people with the unity day into sorrow,” President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi said in a speech to the nation. “The war on terrorism will continue until it is uprooted and defeated completely whatever the sacrifices are.”
The al-Qaeda statement said the bombing was in reprisal for the government attacks in Abyan, and denounced what it called U.S. and Saudi interference in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia will host a meeting tomorrow on Yemen to be attended by representatives from more than 40 countries, as well as international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Saba said, citing Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Kurbi.
The suicide bomber, wearing an army uniform, struck near the entrance to the palace as the army prepared for today’s National Day of Unification, marking the creation of Yemen through the merger of the south and north in 1990.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack. U.S. counterterrorism adviser John Brennan called Hadi yesterday to express President Barack Obama’s condolences and pledge U.S. support, according to a statement yesterday from the White House.
Hadi fired two senior members of the security forces, one of them a nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saba said.
Saleh, who ruled for three decades, ceded power last year after months of mass protests. The unrest weakened a central government that has struggled to quell Shiite Muslim rebels in the north and a separatist movement in the south, as well as al- Qaeda militants. Hadi was elected president unopposed in February.
Yemen, the poorest Arab country, lost $2.5 billion in revenue due to attacks on the country’s main oil pipeline during the conflict, the oil and minerals minister, Hisham Sharaf, said last week.
Yemen borders Saudi Arabia and Oman at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The conflict there has raised concerns that it may slide into the kind of lawlessness that grips Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden, where there has been no functioning administration since 1991. Somalia has become a staging post for pirates who attack merchant shipping lanes.
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