The death toll from a suicide blast in Yemen has risen to 96 soldiers. Over 300 were wounded. The troops were practicing for a national day parade in the capital Sanaa, the latest media reports say.
Dozens of ambulances have rushed to the scene to get wounded to hospitals.
The bomber, who was reportedly wearing military uniform or was a soldier himself, targeted servicemen as they marched through al-Sabeen Square near the presidential palace. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is due to attend the parade.
The military event is scheduled for Tuesday to mark Yemen’s National Unity Day, the 22nd anniversary of the country’s reunion between the former North and South Yemen.
The military officials do not exclude Al-Qaeda links of the blast since the army has been successfully fighting its militants over the last week in the southern Abyan governorate of Yemen.
A major military operation commenced on May 17 as 25,000 troops, supported by Yemeni Air Force and artillery, advanced into the Abyan governance, which was seized by militants last spring. Since the military operation began, 213 people have been reported killed, including 147 Al-Qaeda militants, 31 servicemen, 18 personnel of the local militia and 17 civilians.
The army is preparing to storm the towns of Loder and Jaar to eliminate finally Al-Qaeda’s presence in the region.
Yemeni troops have support from the US Navy deployed in the Gulf of Aden. American warships perform missile strikes on militants. Also American UAVs stationed in the region are being extensively used to eliminate militants’ convoys.
Besides material and technical support Washington gives to Sanaa to fight Al-Qaeda in the country, Yemeni troops are being trained by American instructors on the ground. On Sunday one of them was seriously wounded in a terrorist assault. Al-Qaeda has taken responsibility for the attack on the American instructor.
In February Al-Qaeda carried out a comparable terror attack near presidential palace in Sanaa. A blast of a car full of explosives killed 26 people.
The standoff between the army and Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen is lasting for over a year now and officially it claimed lives of more than 2,000 people on both sides.
Last year when the Arab Spring came to Yemen the country’s opposition managed to make President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for 33 years, leave power. In February passed authority to democratically elected President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Still, the violence continues in the southern regions of Yemen where separatist mood is strong and Al-Qaeda controls certain areas.