SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The death toll from a suspected al-Qaida suicide bombing in southern Yemen rose to 45 Sunday, officials said, in the latest attack against militias allied with the army.
The bomber struck a funeral late Saturday, attended by civilian militia fighters who aided the government's push to recapture the town of Jaar from al-Qaida in June.
The U.S. considers the Yemen branch of al-Qaida as the most dangerous in the terror network. It is blamed for several unsuccessful attempts to carry out attacks in the U.S.
American advisers have been helping Yemen's military in its campaign, and locals often credit the U.S. with carrying out drone airstrikes against the militants. The U.S. rarely comments on its role in Yemen.
Yemen's state news agency said 30 died in the Saturday attack and another 40 people were wounded. But a security official and a medical official said 45 people were killed in the attack. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
SABA said most of the victims were members of the civilian militias allied with the army.
Al-Qaida militants took over Jaar and other towns in the south of Yemen during the security vacuum that accompanied last year's protests against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh stepped down in February, and his successor, President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi, pledged to restore his troops' hold on the south. The military has received help from local tribesmen, many of whom opposed al-Qaida's hold on their towns.
After they were pushed out of Jaar, al-Qaida militants fled to nearby mountains and have continued to wage attacks on the area. Saturday's bombing was the second major assault on forces fighting al-Qaida. On Wednesday, al-Qaida gunmen shot and killed four soldiers in a pre-dawn raid on a security building in Jaar.