SANAA // A suicide bomber detonated himself at a funeral ceremony for pro-government fighters in Yemen’s Abyan province killing at least 45, the Yemen defence ministry said yesterday. Forty others were injured in Saturday’s attack in the town of Jaar.
The victims were attending the funeral of the uncle of Abdul Latif Al Sayed, leader of local fighters who fought alongside the army against Al Qaeda, which is being blamed for the attack, but has not claimed responsibility. Mr Al Sayed was among the injured and two of his brothers were killed in the attack.
“An Al Qaeda suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt during a mourning ceremony in the town of Jaar organised by the resistance committees,” said Abyan governor Jamal Al Aqal.
Jaar was one of the towns in Abyan province that were retaken by government troops in June after being held by Al Qaeda loyalists for more than a year.
The attacker gained entry to the gathering by proclaiming to be a family friend. Upon his reaching the centre of the proceedings a powerful explosion took place, security officials and eyewitnesses said.
“Security was very tight at the funeral. This attack is a warning that anyone who supports the government will be killed,” said Sulieman Abdulrahman, a Jaar resident who attended the funeral.
“The government will lose its allies and tribes will choose to step aside if such attacks against them continue,” he added.
Nasser Mansari, the deputy head of Jaar’s municipal authority, held the the defence and interior ministries responsible for the attack blaming it for the lack of security.
“There is no presence of police in Jaar and other towns of Abyan, while Al Qaeda militants remain underground,” Mr Mansari said
The dead were taken to the local Al Razi hospital while the injured were rushed to Al Naqeeb Hospital in neighbouring Aden province. The death toll gradually rose from 15 to 45 after many of the injured died.
The attack was the second by Al Qaeda in Jaar in less than a week. Four soldiers were ambushed at a security checkpoint on Thursday.
Clashes broke out yesterday between government forces and suspected Al Qaeda fighters in four fronts in Abyan, mainly in the own of Batais, hours after the suicide attack.
Since the government announced victory in Abyan, Al-Qaeda appears to be fighting a guerrilla war resorting to suicide bombings rather than controlling towns.
“Al-Qaeda is choosing their targets carefully. They are attacking anyone who supports the government’s efforts in war on terror,” a senior defence ministry official told The National on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to media.
Ahmed Al Bahri, spokesperson for the Joint Meeting Parties, the country’s largest political bloc, said that the Yemeni government was slacking in its fight against Al Qaeda and warned that militants could be regrouping and planning for a series of attacks in major Yemeni cities. “We celebrated too early on the defeat of Al Qaeda. We need to take this more seriously or risk the death of hundreds of innocent citizens.”
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse