The aftermath of the suicide attack in Sana’a. Source: Al Arabiya.
Arabic media outlets are reporting the deaths of at least 63 individuals as the result of two suicide attacks in Sana’a and eastern Hadramout province in Yemen today. The attacks came only a few hours after the latest development in the country’s ongoing political crisis, when Prime Minister-designate Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak rejected his nomination by Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi under heavy pressure from the Houthi rebels.
The suicide attack in Sana’a took place this morning as supporters of the Shiite Houthi rebels, who seized the Yemeni capital on Sept. 22, were preparing for demonstrations in Tahrir Square. A suicide bomber detonated his explosive device at a checkpoint at the northeastern entrance to Tahrir Square, in front of the Yemeni Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Medical officials told the Arabic press that at least 43 people were killed in the attack, and that the number of casualties is expected to rise due to the severity of the wounds suffered by the victims of the attack. At least 75 people were reported injured from the explosion. Body parts and pools of blood were scattered throughout the square as first responders reached the scene.
Arabic media sources claimed that the pro-Houthi demonstration targeted by AQAP was originally intended to take place at Sab’een Square in Sana’a, but was relocated to Tahrir Square following bin Mubarak’s rejection of his nomination. The attack has been described as the largest suicide operation in Sana’a since AQAP’s May 2012 bombing of a military parade that killed nearly 100 Yemeni soldiers.
The second attack, which occurred “almost simultaneously” with the first, took place at a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Hadramout’s provincial capital, Mukallah. A military source in the area claimed that an AQAP suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the checkpoint near the town of Buroom at the western entrance to Mukallah, immediately killing 10 soldiers.
Medical sources said that following the attack, four additional Yemeni soldiers were found dead at the site of the explosion and six others died from their wounds, raising the casualty figure to 20 soldiers. AQAP fighters also reportedly set fire to several vehicles and a small building at the checkpoint. Other sources reported that the AQAP fighters managed to seize two military vehicles and a tank during the course of the assault.
Today’s attacks are the latest in an ongoing AQAP offensive throughout the country. AQAP is capitalizing on the political and security vacuum resulting from the Houthi rebellion, which is challenging the authority of the Sana’a government. In a statement released on Oct. 10, AQAP claimed that “more than fifty rafidi [Shi’ite] Houthis” were killed and tens were injured in the suicide attack. The statement added that the attack was carried out by Abu Mu’awiyah al Sana’ani, who detonated his explosive belt as Houthi supporters amassed in the city square. Though the statement states that it is difficult to determine the exact number of casualties as a result of the attack, it does note that local and international media outlets reported that more than 50 Houthis were killed and 150 others were severely injured.
AQAP has declared an open war against the Houthis and routinely accuses the Yemeni government of collusion with the Shiite rebels. On Oct. 8, AQAP carried out a series of attacks in Baydah province against the Yemeni military. AQAP claimed that the military was in the process of handing over a Special Forces base in the city to the Houthis. In a video released last week, AQAP claimed that Yemeni “soldiers have grown used to raising their voices with the rafidi [Shi’ite] Houthi cry during battle.” Exploiting the current political and security chaos in the country, AQAP has been stepping up its operations against both the Yemeni military and the Houthi rebels.