A wave of suicide bombings targeting Yemeni troops killed at least 42 people on Monday in the southeastern city of Mukalla, officials said, attacks claimed by DAESH.
The capital of Hadramawt province, Mukalla has been under the control of al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) for the last year until pro-government troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition recaptured the city in April. DAESH claimed responsibility for the attacks, issuing a statement that eight of its suicide bombers killed 50 members of Yemen's security forces, according to the U.S.-based monitor SITE Intelligence Group.
The governor of the vast province, Ahmed Saeed bin Breyk, told AFP that Mukalla had "witnessed five suicide attacks in four areas." Three simultaneous bombings hit security checkpoints in the coastal city at sunset, just as troops were breaking their Ramadan fast, a security official said.
In the first attack, a suicide bomber on a motorbike asked soldiers if he could eat with them before blowing himself up, the official said. Two other bombers approached soldiers on foot elsewhere in the city before detonating their explosives.
Shortly afterwards, two suicide bombers launched a fourth attack and blew themselves up at the entrance of an army camp, the official said. In all, the attacks killed 40 soldiers as well as a woman and child passing by and wounded 37 other people, said Hadramawt's health chief Riad al-Jalili. AQAP retains a strong presence in Mukalla, and extremists still control several towns in the interior valley of Wadi Hadramawt. Last month, the Pentagon said a "very small number" of U.S. military personnel were deployed around Mukalla in support of pro-government forces. The U.S. Navy has several ships nearby, including an amphibious assault vessel, the USS Boxer, and two destroyers.
In May, a suicide bombing claimed by DAESH and a second blast killed 47 police in Mukalla – a city of 200,000 people.
U.S. strikes have taken out a number of senior AQAP commanders in Yemen over the past year. The U.S. military said earlier this month that it had killed six AQAP fighters in three separate strikes in central Yemen.
Yemen has remained in turmoil since 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa, from which they have sought to extend their influence to other parts of the country.
On March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies began an extensive military campaign targeting Shiite Houthi positions across Yemen.
Riyadh says its anti-Houthi campaign comes in response to appeals by embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi for military intervention against the Shiite group. Yemen is one of the poorest countries on the Arabian Peninsula, with an economy further deteriorating because of the war, and millions face hunger and disease due to lack of access to medical services. The United Nations refugee agency has said basic services across the country are on the verge of collapse, and hundreds of health facilities are reported to have stopped functioning due to damage or lack of fuel.