A suicide attack at a town in south Yemen recently recaptured by the army from Al-Qaeda forces killed 20 people Saturday and wounded another 20, the governor of the province said.
In a separate incident in the east of the country meanwhile, a suspected US drone strike killed five Al-Qaeda members late Saturday, a local official said.
“Twenty people have been killed and 20 others wounded,” governor Jamal al-Aqal said in a statement on the suicide attack posted on the defence ministry’s website.
Officials have opened an investigation to establish a final death toll and to identify the author of this “criminal and cowardly” attack, the governor’s statement added.
Earlier, a witness had told AFP that the attack in Jaar, Abyan province, killed eight people.
The witness said the attacker had blown himself up during a mourning ceremony organised in honour of a relative of an army auxiliary leader.
“The suicide bomber belonged to the Al-Qaeda network,” said the witness, saying it was in retaliation for the local fighters’ role helping Yemeni troops recapture the town.
The army announced in mid-June that it had recaptured Jaar and Zinjibar, Abyan’s provincial capital, from Al-Qaeda fighters who had held it since May.
But on Wednesday, an attack by Al-Qaeda militants on a police station in Jaar killed two soldiers and a civilian. Locals have expressed fears that the extremists could retake the town.
In the east of the country meanwhile, an official who requested anonymity, gave AFP details of the drone attack, which he said had happened near the village of Al-Qotn, in the province of Hadramut.
“A drone fired two missiles at an all-terrain vehicle… killing its five occupants, all members of Al-Qaeda,” said the official.
Security forces deployed around the site of the strike and sealed it off, said witnesses.
The United States is the only country that has drones in the region and in recent months has been carrying out strikes on Al-Qaeda targets in the south and east of the country and in the Arabian peninsula.
Al-Qaeda militants have carried out several deadly attacks against Yemeni security services since President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who has repeatedly vowed to battle extremists, came to power this year.
In July, Yemen announced it had placed its security services on high alert to prevent “terrorist” attacks after it uncovered a plot to launch assaults against security and military checkpoints.
The Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is believed to be the most effective and lethal branch of the global network.