At least 21 people died in the bombing, which came as Abdrabu Mansur Hadi took the oath of office as the first new president in Sanaa since 1978 after a year of turmoil and bloodshed.
Suicide bomber hits Yemeni presidential palace as new leader sworn in
SANAA // A Yemeni health official says a car bomb outside the gate of a presidential compound in a southern city has killed at least 21 people, hours after the country's new president was formally inaugurated.
The health official said the fatalities in the blast Saturday in the city of al-Mukalla were presidential guards. A security official said it was a suicide blast. He did not provide a death toll. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to speak to the press.
Southern separatists and Islamist insurgents are active in the region.The blast came as Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi was sworn in as president to replace longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, following an election aimed at ending over a year of political turmoil.
Hadi, who was Saleh's vice president, was formally inaugurated following a single-candidate presidential election earlier in the week.
In his televised speech, Hadi swore to keep up Yemen's fight against al-Qaida-linked militants, who took advantage of the country's upheaval to seize control of several parts of the country.
He also pledged to work to bring home the thousands of internal refugees created by fighting between government troops, southern separatists, mutinous military units, tribal movements, and numerous other factions.
"One of the most prominent tasks is the continuation of war against al-Qaida as a religious and national duty, and to bring back displaced people to their villages and towns," Hadi said.
Hadi has an onerous task ahead. He must restructure powerful security forces packed with Saleh loyalists, launch a national dialogue that would include members of the southern secessionist movement, and appease a restless religious minority in the north as well as disparate opposition groups in the heartland.
An unexpectedly large turnout for the Tuesday vote gives Hadi a strong popular mandate to tackle these problems.
Election Commission chief Mohammed al-Hakimi said Friday that 6.6 million people out of a potential 10.2 million voted. Of those, over 99 percent selected the only option on the ballot - to vote "yes" for Hadi - with the remaining ballots invalid.
The election was arranged as part of a U.S- and Gulf-backed power transfer deal signed in November. Washington has played an active role in the transition, in hopes that Hadi can head off chaos and ensure cooperation against the country's active al-Qaida branch.
Government operations have failed to oust the group, which is blamed for trying to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner in 2009 and cargo planes bound for the U.S. a year later.
Saleh meanwhile returned to Yemen early Saturday after spending about three weeks in the U.S. receiving treatment for injuries he suffered during a June rocket attack on his compound that helped hasten his departure.
Saleh had pledged to return to Yemen for his successor's inauguration. His party said on its website that he would arrive in Sanaa to a large popular reception.
Saleh is the fourth Arab leader swept from power by the Arab Spring. But thanks to his continued presence in the country and his negotiated exit, the political changes brought by his ouster may be much less dramatic than the results of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
Many fear that the ex-president, who has cast a large web of tribal and family relations during his three decades of rule, may still try to pull the strings during the transitional period until a new constitution is written.
Hadi called on all political parties to abide by democracy as a means to take Yemen out of its crisis.
"Expected changes don't come by mere wishes and hopes but through democratic dialogue, and through a serious and correct approach to the key issues that racked the country," he said.
The election saw several attacks against polling stations in the southern province of Aden, where secessionists are campaigning for independence, but Hadi vowed in his oath to preserve the country's unity.
"I swear by Almighty God to uphold the republican system, respect and preserve the constitution and the unity and independence of Yemen," he said.
The ceremony was attended by the U.S., and EU ambassadors, and several Arab envoys.