SANAA, Yemen — Suicide bombers targeting prospective army recruits killed at least 45 and injured many in the restive southern Yemeni city of Aden in two assaults, highlighting the obstacles to ongoing peace talks in Kuwait.
The first attacker targeted applicants gathered outside the home of a military commander, Brig. Gen. Abdullah al-Subaihi, killing at least 25, according to witnesses and Yemeni officials.
“There were a group of applicants standing outside the gate of Subaihi’s house carrying folders and filling out application forms when a terrorist stormed into the crowd blowing himself up and killing and injuring dozens,” said Nabil Hassan Saleh, local journalist who arrived at the scene just minutes after the explosion.
The second attack unfolded 10 minutes later outside an army base that also served as a recruitment center, killing at least 20, witnesses and officials said.
The base is less than a mile from the commander’s house. Witnesses said a bomb was planted in front of the gate, but other reports suggested that a suicide bomber detonated an car laden with explosives.
“We heard the second explosion only minutes after the first explosion happened,” said Bassam al-Qadi, 28, a human rights activist. “There were lots of bodies lying on the ground in both locations.”
Ambulances ferried the wounded to hospitals, he added. Many were in critical condition, hospital officials said.
In a statement on social media, a local organization pledging allegiance to the Islamic State militant group asserted responsibility for both attacks.
For nearly two years, the Arabian Peninsula nation has been torn apart by a civil war that pits a Saudi- and U.S.-backed government against Shiite rebels aligned with the forces of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The rebels and Saleh are in control of the capital, Sanaa, as well as large expanses of the north. Both sides are currently engaged in peace talks in Kuwait.
The government largely controls Aden, but other parts of the south are under the domination of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s Yemen branch.
Monday’s blasts underscore the tenuous situation in southern Yemen, particularly in Aden, a strategic port on the Arabian Sea and a key global oil shipping lane. Only a few months ago, the government — backed by airstrikes from a Saudi-led coalition — seized the city from the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis.
Since then, Aden has been devastated by suicide bombings and assassinations, largely targeting government security forces.
Monday’s attacks were the third in about a month. Last month, a car bomb targeted the house of the head of security in Aden, injuring one person. Another car bomb exploded three weeks ago, killing four and injuring at least eight in the Mansoura enclave of Aden.
Raghavan reported from Cairo.