Nearly 100 soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a military parade in Yemen yesterday in revenge for a recent offensive to root out al-Qa'ida militants.
Thousands of soldiers ran for cover after a man in army uniform detonated a belt packed with explosives at al-Sabin Square in the capital, Sana'a, killing 96 people and injuring more than 200. "This is a real massacre," said Ahmed Sobhi, a soldier at the scene. "There are piles of torn body parts, limbs and heads."
Most casualties were members of the Central Security Organisation commanded by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's nephew, Yahya Saleh, who was sacked after the bombing. The paramilitary force has led a 10-day day offensive against al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its affiliates in the southern province of Abyan, killing about 150 insurgents,
The blast came during rehearsals for a parade to mark today's anniversary of the union of North and South Yemen in 1990. The AQAP offshoot Ansar al-Sharia, which claimed responsibility, said it was a response to the "crimes" of security forces trying to dislodge militants.
"Al-Qa'ida is under huge pressure and losing ground in the south," said Mustafa Alani, a regional security analyst with the Gulf Research Centre. "They've taken a big hit and lost hundreds of their fighters and it was expected that they would carry out some kind of revenge attack."
The bomb tore through the crowd just before the Defence Minister, Major-General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, was due to greet the troops. Senior officials escaped unscathed.
The attack ramps up pressure on President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was elected in February when Mr Saleh agreed to hand over power after protests against his rule.