x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Suicide bomber strikes police headquarters in Yemen

A suspected al Qa'eda suicide bomber blows himself up at the gate of police headquarters in the southern Dhal'e province, wounding eight policemen.

SANA'A // A suspected al Qa'eda suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of police headquarters in the southern Dhal'e province yesterday, wounding eight policemen, authorities said. The bombing "carries the hallmark of al Qa'eda", the website of Yemen's defence ministry quoted Abdullah al Hadi, Dhal'e's deputy governor, as saying.

Mr al Hadi said investigators were dispatched from Sana'a to determine the identity of the attacker, who tried to crash through the front gate of the police compound on his motorbike, according to local sources. Al Qa'eda in Yemen earlier concentrated on high-impact strikes on foreign targets, but of late it has been targeting the state because of its growing co-operation with the US in operations against militants.

Four other attacks on state targets since June have been blamed on al Qa'eda's Yemen-based arm, although it only claimed responsibility for two of them. Six soldiers were killed in a recent attack. "You are covering for American crimes to subjugate the people of this country and to serve US interests in the region," said an audio recording, posted on an Islamist website on Thursday. "God willing, we will strike again when the time is right."

Yemen, facing a rebellion in the north and separatist movement in the south, is under international pressure to quell domestic conflicts and focus on a resurgent al Qa'eda. Western powers and Saudi Arabia fear the militant group is exploiting growing instability in Yemen to use it as a launch pad for attacks regionally and beyond. The impoverished country was in forefront of western security concerns when al Qa'eda's Yemeni wing claimed responsibility for the botched bombing of a US-bound plane in December.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a US$370 million (Dh1.36bn) loan for Yemen to help it stave off a growing economic crisis that has seen its currency tumble recently to record lows. The IMF said on Monday that it would immediately disburse an initial sum of $53m to the government and the remainder would be subject to quarterly reviews. The country's currency, the rial, has fallen against the US dollar, despite a $57 million injection into the exchange market by the central bank. The central bank has blamed the rial's recent drop on the worsening security situation and increased demand for foreign currencies to import goods for Ramadan.

In the first year of the loan programme, the IMF said the adjustment would focus on fiscal measures and raising revenues through tax policy changes. The IMF said revamping tax policies would include fully implementing a general sales tax and a package of laws that abolishes most exemptions on tax and customs duties. The IMF said the economic programme targeted growth of five per cent annually, while inflation should stay in the vicinity of 10 per cent a year.

malqadhi@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Reuters