SANAA, Yemen — Suicide bombers targeting army recruits killed at least 45 and injured scores in the restive southern Yemeni city of Aden in two separate assaults, highlighting the obstacles to peace talks currently underway in Kuwait.
The first attacker targeted a group of prospective recruits gathered outside the home of a military commander, Brig. Gen. Abdullah al-Subaihi, killing at least 25, according to eyewitnesses 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, a 30-year-old local journalist who arrived at the scene minutes after the explosion took place.
The second attack unfolded 10 minutes later outside an army base that also served as a recruitment center, killing at least 20, eyewitnesses 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 a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car.
“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, he added, ferried the injured to local hospitals. Many were in critical condition, hospital officials said. Al-Khader Laswar of the Health Ministry said the number killed in both blasts was 33 so far, with 54 injured.
Other reports placed the death toll as high as 45. “We are still counting and expect the number of killed to go up,” Laswar said.
In a statement on social media, a local organization pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both attacks.
For nearly two years, the nation on the Arabian Peninsula has been torn apart by a civil war that pits an American and Saudi-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.
Monday’s blasts underscore the tenuous situation in the south, 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 back from the Shiite rebels, known as the Houthis.
Since then, Aden has been devastated by a series of 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 al-Mansoura enclave of Aden.