An improvised explosive device (IED) planted by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) detonated today in Yemen’s southern Lahj province as experts were attempting to defuse it. Three Yemeni explosives experts and 10 civilians were reportedly killed by the blast.
A Yemeni security official told the Arabic media that the IED was brought to the authorities’ attention by local residents, who reported its presence in the vicinity of Lahj province’s central prison. A team of explosives experts rushed to the scene to defuse the bomb, but were not successful. The same official also said that a police commander from the nearby city of Tabin was among the casualties of the explosion.
An anonymous local official claimed that the IED was planted close to the residence of the governor, Ahmad al Majidi, in the city of Sabr in Lahj province. He noted that the explosion also lightly wounded a number of Yemeni soldiers and pedestrians.
Later in the day, a Twitter account affiliated with AQAP released a short report claiming credit for the explosion in Lahj. The report stated that the IED was intended to target members of the Yemeni Popular Committees in Sabr City in the Tabin area “in response to their crimes against the Muslims.” The AQAP report noted that the IED’s location was discovered and that it exploded before it could be defused. Although Arabic media reports claimed that 13 people had been killed by the explosion, AQAP said that eight individuals were killed – three explosive experts working to defuse the bomb along with a number of police officers and members of the Popular Committees. However, the AQAP report added that about 20 people were injured by the explosion, including Colonel Mohammad Fareed, the local police chief.
The AQAP report concluded with the following statement from a fighter acting as a spokesman for the group: “We strongly apologize for injures that occurred among some Muslims during the explosion, and we thank Allah that none of them were killed. On this occasion, I repeat what we have already mentioned many times via a number of our publications that we disseminated in Wilayat Lahj which is a warning to our Muslim people to distance themselves from the IEDs and not attempt to dismantle them or tamper with them.”
Long an al Qaeda battleground, Lahj province is particularly important to the terrorist organization given its close proximity to the port of Aden. Al Qaeda has carried out a string of terrorist operations in the province, including a suicide attack in March targeting the military intelligence headquarters in Lahj.
Update: Since this report was posted, AQAP claimed responsibility for the IED explosion in Lahj. The report has been edited to reflect this development.