Nearly 100 Soldiers Dead, 300 Wounded in Yemen Blast
Escalating violence in Yemen comes ahead of national holiday
Reports indicate a single suicide bomber who detonated powerful explosives amid a crowd of soldiers rehearsing for an upcoming parade in Yemen's capital city of Sanaa left at least 96 dead and perhaps 300 or more wounded.
"We are hearing reports that 96 people were killed and many more injured. There have been requests for blood donations and the death toll could go even higher," reported Al-Jazeera's Jane Ferguson from Sanaa this morning.
The parade the soldiers were planning for was to be part of a celebration marking the 22nd anniversary of the unification of north and south Yemen. According to an official who spoke with Agence France-Presse, Yemen's defense minister, Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, was present at the time of the explosion but escaped unharmed.
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Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the centre of the Yemeni capital Sanaa that claimed the lives of almost 100 people.
Officials said a bomber dressed in military uniform targeted soldiers rehearsing for a parade to mark Yemen's national day.
Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson, reporting live from Sanaa, said that the death toll had reached almost 100.
"We are hearing reports that 96 people were killed and many more injured. There have been requests for blood donations and the death toll could go even higher." Ferguson said.
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is scheduled to attend Tuesday's parade marking the 22nd anniversary of the unification of north and south Yemen.
Yemeni government soldiers are waging a fierce campaign in th country's south against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters who have taken advantage of political instability to gain territory.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for Monday's blast but our correspondent said it appeared to have been intended to send a signal to the government and the military.
"If they were targeting high profile guests, like the president, at the parade, then they would have attacked tomorrow," she said.
"This was a message to the authorities that they are willing and able to strike at the heart of the military and that nobody here is safe."
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The suicide bombing comes 10 days into a massive army offensive against Al-Qaeda in Yemen's restive southern Abyan province, where the jihadists have seized control of a string of towns and cities in attacks launched since May last year.
The offensive followed days after the White House announced that a plot by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to blow up a US airliner had been foiled.
Yemen military and tribal sources said Monday that 11 Al-Qaeda fighters and three Yemeni soldiers were killed in the latest fighting around the southern city of Jaar.
The clashes during the night took place mainly at the city's western entrance, a military source said, adding that 17 soldiers were wounded in the clashes.
In a separate incident Monday, Al-Qaeda militants attacked a Yemeni military base in Wadi Hassan, east of Zinjibar, killing seven soldiers and wounding 23 others, military officials and medics said, adding that fierce fighting also erupted northeast of the city.
Since the offensive began, 234 people have been killed, according to a tally compiled by AFP, including 158 Al-Qaeda fighters, 41 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 17 civilians.
Residents and tribes in the area surrounding Jaar have formed armed militias, Popular Resistance Committees, to back the army, similar to those formed in other Abyan towns -- Loder and Mudia.
According to Western diplomats in Sanaa, US experts have been advising the Yemeni army in combat.
On Monday, Al-Qaeda militants claimed they raked with gunfire a convoy carrying four US military advisers in Hudaida, but American officials said they had no such personnel in the west Yemen port city.
The jihadists said in a statement that gunmen had opened fire on Sunday on two cars carrying four American military advisers who were in the Red Sea city on a training mission with the Yemeni Coast Guard.
The militants "opened fire on them as they left their hotel on their way to work," the statement said, adding that the attackers were able to flee despite efforts by Yemeni security forces to cordon off the city.
The US embassy in Sanaa however denied the presence of American military advisers in Hudaida.
"Reports of US military trainers in Hudaida are false," an embassy email said.
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