Yemen suicide bomb leaves 43 dead in capital

SANAA: At least 43 people were killed when a powerful suicide bombing ripped through the Yemeni capital on Thursday, plunging the violence-plagued state into further turmoil after weeks of political deadlock.

Dozens more were wounded in the attack in Sanaa´s Al-Tahrir square, which targeted a gathering for supporters of insurgents who overran the capital last month.

A separate suicide attack killed 20 Yemeni soldiers in the country´s southeast in a car bombing suspected of having been carried out by Al-Qaeda, a military source told. Yemen has been wracked by political turmoil and sporadic violence since the 2012 toppling of strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, with rebels and militants battling to exploit a power vacuum and seize control of territory.

The bombing in Sanaa came a day after Yemen´s new prime minister designate, named as part of a UN-brokered peace deal, refused the post amid fierce rebel opposition.

Witnesses said a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt at a checkpoint at the entrance to the protest gathering, adding that steel balls were seen strewn at the scene of the blast.

An AFP photographer saw the lifeless bodies of four children among the victims.

Medics at the nearby Police Hospital issued an urgent plea for more doctors to deal with the number of casualties. Supporters of the rebels, known as Huthis, gathered after the blast — the largest in Sanaa since May 2012 — demanding the fall of beleaguered President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

The Huthis, who are also referred to as Ansarullah, swept into the capital on September 21 after fierce battles with forces allied to the government in Sanaa that left more than 270 dead. A UN-brokered peace accord, which called for a rebel withdrawal from Sanaa and the naming of a neutral premier, was struck the same day.

But the Huthis have dug their heels in, refusing to support Hadi´s choice for prime minister and demanding a greater role in decision making as well as political and economic reform.