March 3, 2012
SANAA (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers drove a car packed with explosives into a Yemeni army base in the southern province of al-Bayda on Saturday, killing one soldier, the Defence Ministry said, in an attack for which al Qaeda claimed responsibility.
Another soldier was killed by one of two blasts aimed at a central security forces building in the southern coastal town of Mukalla, where a suicide bombing a week ago killed at least 26 people. Authorities said they had made several arrests.
Militants linked to al Qaeda have exploited political upheaval to strengthen their foothold in Yemen, particularly in the south which is also home to rising secessionist sentiment.
Yemen's south has been mired in violence since protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh took hold early last year, weakening already loose central government control over whole swathes of the country.
Saturday's attack in al-Bayda, which targeted barracks of the Republican Guard forces, came just days after the interior ministry said it had information about an al Qaeda plot to blow up eight cars in the capital Sanaa and the port city of Aden.
"The explosion was very loud and took place in Dar al-Nasr, which is a military site of the Republican Guard," said an opposition website.
"Residents of the town were frightened by the force of the blast, which was felt more than two kilometres away and damaged dozens of neighbouring houses and blew their windows out."
In a text message sent to Reuters, al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack it said was revenge for crimes committed by the Republican Guard. There was no way to verify if the text was from the militants but they have used the method to communicate with media in the past.
The United States, wary of al Qaeda entrenchment in Yemen, backed a plan brokered by Yemen's wealthy Gulf Arab neighbours under which Saleh handed over power to his deputy last month and secured himself immunity from prosecution.
Saleh's opponents accuse him of exaggerating -- even encouraging -- the threat of militancy to scare Washington and Riyadh into backing him as a bulwark against al Qaeda and protecting him from reprisals after 33 years in power.
The suicide bombing in Mukalla last week coincided with the swearing in of new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and also targeted the Republican Guard, which is commanded by Saleh's son. Al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing claimed responsibility for that attack as well.
On Friday, gunmen opened fire on a U.S. security team as it trained Yemeni soldiers in the south.
In the oil-producing Maarib province east of Sanaa, an oil pipeline already idled by a previous attack was targeted again late on Friday, the interior ministry said on its website.
An explosion hit the pipeline in the district of Sirwah and one suspect was arrested, it said.