Deadly suicide bombings target Yemen troops in ex-Qaeda bastion

Sunday 26/06/2016
Qaeda is still holding out in Mukalla

MUKALLA (Yemen) - A wave of suicide bombings targeting Yemeni troops killed at least 19 people Monday in the southeastern city of Mukalla, which Al-Qaeda was driven out of in April, an official said.

Three simultaneous bombings hit security checkpoints in the coastal city at sunset, just as troops fasting during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan were breaking their fast, said the security official.

That was soon followed by a fourth bombing at the entrance of an army camp, he said, adding that in all "17 soldiers as well as a woman and child passing by were killed".

The attacks were all carried out by suicide bombers, the source said.

Mukalla, capital of the vast Hadramawt province, remained under Al-Qaeda control for one year before pro-government troops, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, drove the jihadists out in April.

The Pentagon revealed last month that a "very small number" of US military personnel had also been deployed around Mukalla in support of the operation, led by special Saudi and Emirati forces.

The US Navy has several ships nearby, including an amphibious assault vessel, the USS Boxer, and two destroyers.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen since 2009, and the Islamic State group have exploited the power vacuum created by the conflict in Yemen to expand their presence in the south and southeast.

In May, a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS and a second blast killed 47 police in Mukalla -- a city of 200,000 people.