An Islamic State (IS) militant rammed his explosives-laden car into an Army recruiting centre in Aden on Monday, killing 71 people in the deadliest jihadist attack on the Yemeni city in over a year.
The Army, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, is training young recruits to join its nationwide war against Shia Houthi rebels and their allies, as well as Sunni jihadists.
Aden is the temporary base of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, which was forced into exile after Iran-backed insurgents seized Sana’a and other parts of the war-torn country. Security officials told AFP the attacker drove the car bomb into a gathering of recruits at a school in the north of the port city. The recruits were among 5,000 newly enrolled soldiers being trained to fight the Houthi rebels in the north along the border with Saudi Arabia, military sources said. Although the complex was locked as recruits registered inside, the attacker drove in when the gate was opened for a delivery vehicle, officials said.
Witnesses said some recruits were buried when a roof collapsed after the blast which left a gaping hole on the building’s facade. Debris was scattered around the complex and nearby buildings were damaged. The assault killed at least 71 people and wounded 98, medical sources told AFP. They could not immediately verify whether all those who died were army recruits.
Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter that its hospital in Aden “received 45 dead and at least 60 wounded” following the explosion. Aden has experienced a wave of bombings and shootings targeting officials and security forces.
Attacks in the city are often claimed by jihadists from either al-Qaeda or the IS, which have both taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to make gains in the south and southeast.
String of attacks
The IS claimed Monday’s bombing on its official propaganda outlet, Amaq. Earlier this month, a suicide bomber drove his vehicle into a large group of Army reinforcements sent from Aden to fight jihadists in neighbouring Lahj, killing five soldiers, military officials said. No group has claimed that attack.
But on July 20, four policemen were killed in a bombing attack in Aden that was claimed by the IS. And in May, twin suicide bombings in Aden claimed by the IS killed at least 41 people. Yemeni authorities have trained hundreds of soldiers in the city over the past two months as part of operations to retake neighbouring southern provinces from jihadists.
Earlier this month, government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition entered Abyan’s provincial capital of Zinjibar. Troops retook other towns across Abyan but have been met by fierce resistance in the key al-Qaeda stronghold of al-Mahfid, security sources said.
The militants still have a presence in areas surrounding the recaptured towns and control large parts of neighbouring Shabwa province, the sources say.