Last Updated: Sat Feb 25, 2012 17:02 pm (KSA) 14:02 pm (GMT)

At least 26 dead as al-Qaeda suicide attack overshadows Yemen power transition

New Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has singled out al-Qaeda, whose active Arabian Peninsula branch is based in Yemen, as a top priority for his administration. (Reuters)
New Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has singled out al-Qaeda, whose active Arabian Peninsula branch is based in Yemen, as a top priority for his administration. (Reuters)

A suicide car bomb claimed by al-Qaeda killed at least 26 people outside a presidential palace in southern Yemen on Saturday, hours after cwas sworn as Yemen’s new president with the job of bringing stability to an increasingly chaotic nation.

The car was driven at a palace in the port city of Mukalla, Yemen’s fourth-largest city, far from the capital Sana’a where Hadi was sworn in. Dozens were injured, and the governor of Hadramout province said most of the dead were members of the national army, the Republican Guard.

“Al-Qaeda is responsible for the suicide bombing in Mukalla in retaliation for the Republican Guard’s crimes,” an al-Qaeda source told Reuters.

Sana’a, scene of much fighting in recent months between factions of the army supporting protesters and units loyal to former president Ali Abddulah Saleh, was relatively quiet, however.

After taking the oath, Hadi had singled out al-Qaeda, whose active Arabian Peninsula branch is based in Yemen, as a top priority for his new administration: “Continuing the war against al-Qaeda is a national and religious duty.”

Saleh, who arrived back in Sana’a from medical treatment in the United States earlier Saturday, is to formally transfer the reins of power in a ceremony at the presidential palace on Monday.

The handover will put the seal on a hard-won November transfer of power deal, under which Saleh agreed to step down in return for a controversial promise of immunity from prosecution over the deaths of hundreds of people during 10 months of protests against his 33-year rule.

While the street protests and bouts of bloody repression by security forces have subsided, Yemen remains in turmoil from mass poverty, unemployment and corruption, rebellions in the north and south, and the threat from al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia and the United States long saw Saleh as the main bulwark against al-Qaeda in Yemen, which sits on one of the world's main oil shipping routes, but threw their weight behind a power transfer deal as protests against him grew.

After Hadi's speech, protesters in the southern city of Aden clashed with security forces, killing one soldier, a local security official said. Two soldiers and two protesters were injured, medics added.

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