At least 19 people have been killed in a wave of suicide bombings against Yemeni troops in Mukalla. The city had been under Al-Qaeda control for a year before pro-government troops drove out the jihadists in April.
Bombs reportedly went off at the same time at four security checkpoints in the coastal city at sunset as troops were breaking their fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, according to the governor of the Hadramawt province, Ahmed Saeed bin Breyk.
The four attacks killed 17 soldiers as well as a woman and child passing by, he added.
In the first attack, a suicide bomber – reportedly on a motorbike – asked soldiers if he could eat with them. He then blew himself up, the official said. Two other bombers reportedly approached soldiers on foot.
Although driven out in April, the jihadists still have a strong presence and still control several towns in the interior valley of Wadi Hadramawt.
A “very small number” of US military personnel were deployed around Mukalla in support of the April operation, which was led by special Saudi and Emirati forces, the Pentagon said in May.
The US Navy has several ships nearby, including an amphibious assault vessel, the USS Boxer, and two destroyers.
Al-Qaeda has been in Yemen since 2009, while the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group have exploited a power vacuum in the conflict to expand their presence in the south and southeast.
Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda have expanded operations during Yemen’s civil war, in which mainly Shiite Houthi rebels are fighting against a range of opponents, including the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi.
jbh/jm (AFP, dpa)