SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suicide bomber killed two anti-rebel militiamen at a checkpoint in Yemen's southern port city of Aden on Monday, security and medical officials said.
The attack was in Aden's Mansoura neighborhood, they said, adding that it was the first suicide bombing targeting fighters from the southern separatist movement, currently allied with the central government. The bomber was wearing a suicide belt, they added, and body parts and the dead lay strewn about in the streets.
Political analyst Mansour Hayel said the suicide bombing risked sparking a fresh round of violence in the city, where al-Qaida has recently made its presence felt.
Aden is vulnerable, he said, "particularly since the state is unable to fill the security vacuum, which is a major help for al-Qaida."
The attack followed the Sunday storming of an Aden supermarket by Islamic militants, who fired shots into the air and briefly took hostages, according to security officials and witnesses.
Witnesses said the attackers warned supermarket employees against the mingling of men and women and demanded that female employees cover their faces.
Following a large battle over Aden between Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and pro-government forces who pushed the Houthis out of Aden in July, al-Qaida appears to have taken advantage of the local security vacuum as pro-government forces moved on to challenge the Houthis elsewhere in southern Yemen.
Southern separatist Adel Muhasin said al-Qaida had largely succeeded in penetrating local Salafi groups and now holds several areas, with some 5,000 fighters organized under its command in Aden.
"They have the money and the weapons, so they've succeeded in recruiting hundreds of young people, many of them brainwashed or seeking money," he said.
Meanwhile in the rebel-besieged central city of Taiz, Houthi shelling killed four civilians and wounded three, independent security and medical officials said.
Overnight, intense fighting involving tanks and rocket fire continued in Taiz, with 12 anti-rebel fighters killed and over 20 wounded, while at least 25 Houthis were killed and over 30 were wounded, they added. Airstrikes by the Saudi led-coalition fighting the rebels also hit the area near the presidential palace, one of the main battlegrounds.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.