Yemeni soldiers marched in a National Day parade watched by the president from behind a bullet-proof glass shield on Tuesday, one day after a suicide bomber killed nearly 100 of their colleagues in an attack on the rehearsal.
Yemen vowed on Monday to fight “terrorism” regardless of the sacrifices as Saudi Arabia will host an international conference on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Yemen.
A somber mood hung over the event, meant to celebrate the 1990 unification of north and south Yemen, but it finished without any repeat of Monday’s bloodshed.
Al-Qaeda has claimed it was behind the bombing that saw a soldier blow himself up in the middle of an army battalion, killing 96 troops and injuring more than 300 others.
“The war on terror will continue until it is completely destroyed regardless of the sacrifices,” Yemen’s President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said in a statement carried by state news agency Saba.
U.S. very worried
U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States was very worried about the threat posed by an al-Qaeda affiliate and pledged to work with the Yemeni government to crack down on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), blamed for several Yemeni-based attempts to blow up U.S. airliners and cargo planes.
“We are very concerned about al-Qaeda and extremist activity in Yemen,” Obama told reporters at a NATO summit devoted to ensuring that a-Qaeda is not allowed to regroup in another one-time terror haven, Afghanistan, according to AFP.
Obama said there was no doubt that Yemen’s poverty and instability attracted extremists, and added that Washington, which has used drones to take out leaders of AQAP, had a robust counter-terror operation there.
“We’re going to continue to work with the Yemeni government to try to identify AQAP leadership and operations and try to thwart them,” Obama said.
“That’s important for U.S. safety, it’s also important for the stability of Yemen and for the region.”
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said those behind the attack must be brought to justice.
Brutal, terrible and cowardly bombing
The European Union also condemned a “brutal and terrible” bombing.
Earlier, Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan spoke to Yemeni President Hadi who “pledged not to let terrorist acts interfere with Yemen's peaceful political transition,” a statement said.
French President Francois Hollande condemned “in the strongest terms” the “barbaric” suicide bombing in Yemen.
“France will continue to support the Yemen government and people in their fight against terrorism,” Hollande, who is attending a NATO summit in Chicago, was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Elysee palace in Paris.
“France salutes the courage demonstrated by all those in Yemen fighting against terrorism and expresses, in these tragic circumstances, its full solidarity with the victims of this attack and sends its condolences to their families, whose sorrow it shares,” the statement said.
Britain also slammed the “cowardly” suicide bombing in Yemen and urged leaders to make sure it did not hold back plans for political reform.
Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said he was “deeply saddened” by the attack, and warned it underlined the scale of the security challenge facing the Yemeni government as it seeks to work towards completing political transition.
“This cowardly attack must not be allowed to stall or prevent progress towards the completion of rigorous reform,” he added.
Yemen-based AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack which it said targeted “the defense minister and other leaders of the U.S. war on our people in Abyan” province in the south.
“Even if the defense minister (Mohammed Nasser Ahmed) and his aides escaped this operation, we will not tire... we are in a war to defend our blood which is violated in Abyan, and war only breeds war,” it said in a statement posted on jihadist Internet forums.
Saudi Arabic to host conference on yemen
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will host an international conference to discuss the economic and humanitarian situation in Yemen, as well as other challenges facing the impoverished country such as al-Qaeda threats, the Huthi rebels and the political transition, Al Arabiya reported.
The U.N. envoy to Yemen Gamal Benomar told Al Arabiya that the international community is concerned over what is happening in Yemen. He added that he will hold a ministerial-level meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh for the “Friends of Yemen” states to evaluate the political process in the country and the obstacles facing it.
Monday’s attack is Sana’a’s most deadly since Hadi took power in February with a pledge to fight al-Qaeda’s growing presence in the country.
Yemen’s army launched an offensive on May 12 to retake al-Qaeda towns and cities held by extremists across Abyan.
The army’s offensive in south Yemen came days after the White House announced that a plot by AQAP to blow up a U.S. airliner had been foiled.
Since the offensive began, 234 people have been killed, according to a tally compiled by AFP, including 158 al-Qaeda fighters, 41 military personnel, 18 local militiamen and 17 civilians.