POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 21, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 2:16 a.m. HST, Aug 21, 2011
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A pair of suicide bombings targeting anti-al-Qaida tribesmen in southern Yemen killed 11 people on Sunday, tribal and security officials said.
Both blasts took place in Abyan province, where al-Qaida-linked militants have been taking advantage of a breakdown in security linked to Yemen's political turmoil to take over towns and large swaths of territory in the south.
In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber slammed an explosives-laden car into a checkpoint manned by anti-al-Qaida tribesmen, killing eight and wounding 20.
A suicide bomber carried out the second attack, blowing himself up in the middle of a gathering of tribesmen, the officials said. Three men were killed in the second attack.
The officials said suspicion immediately fell on al-Qaida-linked militants in the area who have routinely targeted tribesmen hostile to the terror network or formed militias to fight its members.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Yemen is home to one of the world's most active al-Qaida branches, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The group has plotted or inspired a series of attacks — successful and failed — in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Washington and Riyadh, two longtime allies, have a vested interest in fighting al-Qaida in Yemen, which overlooks the strategic shipping lanes in the Arabian and Red seas and is close to Saudi Arabia's vast oil fields.
The fight against al-Qaida in Yemen has been severely disrupted by the turmoil in the country, the poorest in the Arab world. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's ruler for 33 years, has clung to power in the face of six months of mass protests, defections by military commanders, growing international pressure on him to transfer power and an attack on his palace that left him badly injured. He has been in Saudi Arabia for treatment of severe burns and other wounds since June 5.
The United States and Saleh's Saudi hosts have been pressuring the Yemeni leader not to return home, fearing his return would likely trigger a civil war between loyalists and the opposition movement backed by armed tribesmen and army units that switched sides.
Even so, Saleh declared last week that he is determined to go home. "See you soon in Sanaa," he told a tribal gathering in a video conference from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.