Middle East

Yemen conflict: IS suicide bomber kills army recruits in Aden

Aftermath of suicide bomb attack targeting Yemeni army recruits in Aden (23 May 2016) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Pro-government forces have struggled to prevent deadly attacks in Aden by jihadist militants

At least 40 people, most of them army recruits, have been killed in two bomb attacks claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS) in the Yemeni city of Aden.

In the first, a suicide bomber targeted young men queuing to enlist at the home of a senior army commander.

Shortly afterwards there was a second blast at a nearby army base.

Aden is serving as the temporary home of Yemen's government while it seeks to regain control of the capital, Sanaa, from the Houthi rebel movement.

Pro-government forces and troops from a Saudi-led coalition regained control of Aden last summer, but they have struggled to prevent deadly attacks by local affiliates of IS and the rival jihadist group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

'Horrible' scene

In Monday's first attack, a bomb exploded beside a group of recruits who were lined up outside the home of a general in the Khormaksar district, which acts as a bridge between the mainland and a peninsula where much of the city lies.

There were conflicting reports about whether the assailant detonated an explosive vest or a car bomb.

A bomb planted at the gate of the Badr army base exploded a short time later.

Brig-Gen Nasser al-Sarei, the commander of Yemen's Special Security Forces, said 34 people had been killed in the first attack and seven in the second.

However, local officials told the Reuters news agency that the first blast had left 40 dead and the second had caused no casualties.

One Aden resident described the scene of the suicide bombing as "horrible", saying victims' body parts had been blown dozens of metres away by the blast.

"They came to complete the procedure of their recruitment and receive their first salary," he told the AFP News agency.

IS later issued a statement on social media saying that one of its members had blown himself up amid a group of "apostate soldiers" and that an improvised explosive device (IED) had been detonated nearby.

Eight days ago, IS claimed it was behind a suicide bombing that killed 31 police recruits at a base in the south-eastern port city of Mukalla.

Mukalla was recaptured by pro-government forces last month after a year of rule by AQAP, which has exploited the chaos resulting from Yemen's civil war.

At least 6,200 people, half of them civilians, have been killed and almost three million others have been displaced since March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign to defeat the Houthis.

The conflict has also pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine and left 82% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.