Suicide bombing kills 70 troops in Sana’a
The blast occurred in Al-Sabeen Square while troops of different military and security units were performing military drills in preparation for the National Unification Day military parade planned to take place on Tuesday May 22.
Al-Jarbani who was currently receiving treatment at the police hospital, near the Headquarters of the Central Security Forces said that his 100-troop-company was almost completely annihilated by the blast and that other soldiers of other nearby units were also seriously wounded. Initial reports say that 111 soldiers were wounded, with 80 of them taken to the same hospital as Al-Jarbani. Other wounded were taken to the state-owned Thawra public hospital and the official military hospital, both located in the capital Sana’a.
“While Lieutenant Colonel, Ali Salah,[of the defense ministry and speaker for the drill] was speaking and introducing the defense minister, a huge explosion occurred, after that I could only see black smoke everywhere,” said Al-Jarbani.
“Most of the troops of my company were killed, many decapitated. Three of my officers are still missing,” he added.
All the three of the hospitals that soldiers have been taken to were closed off to the public with tight security by personnel of the National and Political Security organizations.
Families of the victims and reporters were not allowed in any hospital.
The Defense Minister, who was in attendance during the blast, among other high ranking military and security leaders survived and was unhurt, according to the defense ministry’s website.
A Security source told the Yemen Times that the bomber was a soldier who blew himself up during military drills in preparation for the celebration of National Unity Day.
Military officials of the defense ministry said the suicide bomber was a soldier taking part in the drill and that he was a member of the Central Security Forces, headed by former President Saleh’s nephew, Yahia Mohammed Abdullah Saleh.
However, another source at the Ministry of Defense cited an eyewitness who said that the suicide bomber sneaked into the drill at Al-Sabeen Square, only a few meters away from the Central Security Forces’ Headquarters.
This eyewitness said that the suicide bomber joined the drill from Al-Sabeen public park, next to the headquarters of Central Security and Al-Sabeen Square, and then blew himself up. Two other suicide bombers were caught following the blast.
The Defense Ministry said that an investigation is already under way, but no findings have been announced yet.
This incident took place during an exceptionally important time for Yemen. May 22nd Yemen celebrates it’s National Unity Day (marking the anniversary of it’s unification between the North and South) with the first president from formerly Southern Yemen since the country was unified on May 22nd, 1990. The President, Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi, came into office on Feb 21, 2012, after a yearlong uprising toppled his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Hadi ordered a military parade with all of Yemen’s armed forces represented to celebrate the anniversary of unification on the 22nd only days previous to the blast. This parade will be the first one to be performed without Saleh in office, and the first since 1990.
Al-Moatamr.net, a news website and a mouthpiece of Saleh’s party reported on Sunday night that Saleh was in an unknown hospital in the capital Sana'a for some routine checkups and a small procedure.
Saleh, along with other senior officials, was injured in an explosion in the Presidential Palace on June 3, 2011. The blast occurred during Friday prayers in the middle of a popular uprising against his 33- year rule.
Bold changes follow the bombing
President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi immediately ordered the firing of the Central Security Forces’ leader, Abdulmalik Al-Tayb, (who was appointed under Saleh.) Replacing him with General Fadhl Naji Al-Qawsi. Yahia Mohamed Abdulla Saleh, the former President’s nephew and Chief Staff Officer of the CSF, is still in his office and has not been removed, according to a source at the CSF.
Hadi has also removed another of Saleh’s nephews, Amar Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, from his post as Deputy Chief of the National Security Organization. The General Mohamed Jame’ has been appointed as a replacement, the state-owned Saba news agency announced this afternoon.
Additional changes of command were made with Mohamed Abdullah Al-Qawsi, chief of the Patrol Police, and one of Saleh’s aides who was also replaced with Brigadier General Hussein Mohamed Hussein.
Al-Qaeda announce its responsibility of the deadly bombing
Ansar Al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda affiliate group based in Abyan and Shabwa, in southern Yemen are reported to have taken responsibility for the deadly attack which took place during military drills for a parade in the capital Sana’a.
The Ministry of Interior warned last week that armed militants of Al-Qaeda have entered the capital Sana’a and are expected to carry out sabotage and terrorism operations. One militant was captured after intelligence reports revealed what car he was driving. However the Ministry warned that there are still terrorists at large and called for tighter security measures to help combat the threat.