SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a military camp in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Sunday morning, killing at least 48 soldiers, a Health Ministry official said. The Islamic State group's Yemen-based affiliate claimed responsibility.
Abdel-Nasr al-Wali, a Health Ministry official based in Aden, told The Associated Press that 84 people were injured in the blast. Security officials said that preliminary investigations showed the blast was the work of a bomber wearing an explosives-laden vest. The attack took place as soldiers lined up to collect their salaries, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The IS affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on IS-run Aamaq news agency. It identified the bomber as Abu Hashim al-Radfani and published a photo of him smiling and wearing a white vest as he stood next to the group's black flag. It also posted photos it said were of the blast that it claimed killed nearly 70. It was not possible to immediately verify the claim.
The bombing was the latest to underscore how militants have been able to exploit Yemen's conflict to stage large-scale attacks and expand their reach, particularly in the south.
Sunday's blast took place at the same military base that was also struck by a suicide bomber on Dec. 10, killing 57 soldiers. The IS Yemeni affiliate also claimed responsibility for that attack.
In August, another IS-claimed suicide bombing in Aden left 72 people killed when the attacker detonated his pick-up truck among dozens of pro-government recruits.
In addition to IS, Yemen is the longtime home to an active branch of al-Qaida, widely regarded as the most dangerous of the international extremist group.
Aden is controlled by a loose coalition of troops loyal to the internationally-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, local militias and jihadi groups. They are battling Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who seized Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and later swept across much of northern Yemen. Aden serves as the temporary capital for the internationally-recognized government.
The Houthi's advances forced Hadi to flee the country and seek shelter in neighboring Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition, mostly consisting of Gulf Arab states, subsequently intervened in Yemen in early 2015, launching a punishing air campaign against the Houthis and their allies.
Sunday's bombing came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Saudi King Salman and others to discuss the war in Yemen.