At least 48 government troops were killed in multiple suicide bombings claimed by ISIS group in Yemen’s southeastern city of Mukalla on Monday.
Six bombings hit a number of military checkpoints at sunset as soldiers were preparing to break their fast during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“At least 48 army officers and soldiers were killed and 36 others injured in the attacks,” Major-General Faraj al-Bahsani, the commander of 2nd Military Region, which includes al-Mukalla, said in a statement.
According to al-Bahsani, the bombings targeted an intelligence headquarters and a number of military checkpoints in the city.
ISIS terrorist group claimed the attacks, saying that 54 Yemeni forces had been killed in the bombings.
According to the Mukalla news agency, another 24 people, including women and children, were injured in the blasts, with the city’s main Ibn Sina Hospital broadcasting urgent appeals for blood donations.
A local journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera the attackers were posing as distributors for the fast-breaking meal, Iftar, and carried out the bombings while handing out food to troops who had spent the day fasting.
He said that one of the attackers detonated his suicide vest at a checkpoint in a western area of the city, while the other three attacks took place in downtown Mukalla.
The last blast caused the most damage, he said, as one of the attackers forced his way through to an area where the soldiers were preparing to eat before blowing himself up.
Who are worse, Houthis or the extremists ?
Both ISIL and al-Qaeda have expanded operations during Yemen’s civil war, and have claimed responsibility for several bombings and suicide attacks in Mukalla and the southern port city of Aden.
However, in April, Yemeni army forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, recaptured al-Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadhramaut province, from al-Qaeda group.
There has been mounting international pressure to end the war on Yemen, which the UN estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced more than 2.8 million.
Yemen has suffered violence and chaos since September 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis and allied forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh overran capital Sanaa and several other provinces, forcing President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.
In March of last year, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at reversing Houthi gains and restoring Hadi’s embattled government.
In recent months, al-Qaeda has exploited the ongoing conflict between the central government and the Shia Houthi group to bolster its influence in the country’s south.