x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Death toll in Yemen ammunition plant rises to 150

Around 20 women and several children were among the dead and it was uncertain whether the blast was an accident or caused by militants.

ADEN, YEMEN // The number of people killed in a massive blast and fire at an ammunition plant in south Yemen that was looted by al Qa'eda has shot up to 150, a local official said on Tuesday.

The final toll for Monday's explosion at the plant near the town of Jaar has reached "150 dead and at least 80 wounded," Ahmed Ghaleb Rahawi, sub-prefect of Jaar in the southern province of Abyan where the blast took place, said.

Around 20 women and several children were among the dead.

It was still uncertain whether the blast was an accident or caused by militants.

The incident, two months into a nationwide revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, came as a security official said suspected militants had seized control of Jaar and surrounding villages.

With the district falling into the hands of militants on Sunday, around 30 armed and hooded gunmen looted the factory and made off in four vehicles with cases of weapons, witnesses said.

Lawless regions of southern Yemen have turned into a base of operations for Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, the network's franchise in the Arab world's poorest nation.

Yemen is a country where carrying firearms is a national passion and guns outnumber the 24-million population by nearly three to one.