A suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in southern Yemen on Monday, killing the region's army commander and at least two others, government officials said. A spokesperson for the Yemen-based al-Qaeda branch claimed responsibility in a phone interview.
The attack happened when the suicide bomber ran up to the vehicle carrying Major General Salem Qatan, the commander of the southern military, and detonated his explosives. The front of the white pick-up truck was heavily damaged by the powerful explosion, which also damaged several other vehicles.
It happened in front of Saber Hospital in the southern port city of Aden, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital Sana'a.
A brief text message from Yemen's ministry of defense confirmed Qatan, the driver of the pick-up truck and a bodyguard were killed in the attack. At least five passers-by, including two women, were seriously injured, it said. Local sources indicated as many as twelve people were injured.
The defense ministry identified the attacker as a Somali national, without giving other details. But a spokesperson for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the bombing in a phone interview with the Xinhua news agency, saying it was in revenge for a military offensive against militants strongholds in the country.
"One of our Jihadists succeeded in assassinating Major General Salem Ali Qatan who had led a month-long offensive against our families and strongholds in Abyan," the unidentified spokesman was quoted as saying by Xinhua. "We were forced to flee our cities. We have not lost the war or defeated. Our war against crusaders will continue till we take full revenge."
Monday's attack comes just days after Yemeni security forces drove out al-Qaeda militants from their strongholds in several southern regions. Qatan, who assumed the top military post just two months ago, has been very active in the fight against militant strongholds in the province of Abyan.
Yemen is currently undergoing a transition process after a popular uprising erupted in the country last year, similar to protests seen in other countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Yemen held presidential elections in February, resulting in a victory for the country's new leader Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi.
In May, at least 120 people were killed and more than 350 others were injured when a suicide bomber wearing an army uniform blew himself up during a military parade rehearsal at al-Sabeen square in Sana'a. Most of the victims were from Yemen's Central Security Forces in what was one of the worst ever suicide bombings in the history of Yemen. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility.