At least 67 people have been killed in twin suicide blasts across Yemen, one targeting a gathering of rebels in the country’s capital and the other a military outpost in the eastern Hadramout province, officials say.
At least forty-seven people were killed and 75 others wounded in the capital Sanaa on Thursday, when a suicide bomber targeted Houthi supporters preparing to hold a rally, the Yemeni health ministry said.
The attacker reportedly sneaked into a crowd of protesters in the city’s landmark Tahrir Square, before detonating his explosives, which included small steel balls and other materials to enhance the brisance.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the capital that the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda, although no one had yet to claim responsibility.
In a separate incident, at least 20 government soldiers were killed in a suicide car bombing and gun attack in the eastern Hadramout province, state news agency SABA reported.
SABA said 20 soldiers were killed and 15 others wounded in an attack on a security checkpoint in the port city of Mukalla.
The blasts come a day after Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, picked to be Yemen’s prime minister as part of a UN-brokered peace deal, turned down the offer. Houthi rebels had rejected his nomination.
ANALYSIS FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
|Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra|
The suicide bombing targeting the Houthis comes at a critical time for Yemen. The political standoff between the Shia rebels and the president might turn into a full blown conflict with ramifications that may never be contained.
The Houthis want a new government led by an independent prime minister, and above all they want to have equal say in that government. Their growing clout was demonstrated when President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi backpedaled on his decison to appoint Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak as prime minister.
But by deploying hundreds of fighters in the capital and threatening to prolonge their civil disobedience campaign, the Shia group reinforces the fears among Yemen’s predominantly Sunni population that the group wants to seize power.
As Yemen sinks further into crisis, the secessionists in the south can now press ahead with their calls to break away from the north. For many Sunnis, a state of their own is definitely an attractive option.
Al-Qaeda is one of many groups likely to make gains amid instability. Despite a massive military operation early this year in Abyan and Shabwa, AQAP fighters have either retreated to desert areas controlled by tribesmen or relocated in neighbouring Hadramout province.
The capture of Sanaa on Sept 21 was hailed by the Houthis as a major victory, but could ironically end up being their biggest mistake. It’s true that Sana’a is under their control, but at the same time they may lose the rest of Yemen.