AL MUKALLA (Yemen) • A bomb- packed car driven by a suicide attacker exploded at a checkpoint near the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden on Thursday, and security officials said at least eight people were killed.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group claimed responsibility for the blast, the latest in a series of assaults that underscored the frail security in a part of the war-ravaged country that was triumphantly reclaimed by the government less than six months ago.
President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was unharmed in the explosion, according to a security official and a witness.
Officials said the bomber appeared to have been targeting a convoy of senior officials who were driving towards the palace.
Mr Hadi was forced out of power last year by Yemen's Houthi rebels and exiled from Sanaa, the capital.
After spending months in Saudi Arabia, Mr Hadi and other Cabinet members returned to Yemen in September but stayed in Aden, proclaiming that it had been liberated from the Houthis. But the government, which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, still has only a tenuous hold on Aden and other parts of southern Yemen.
Among the armed groups vying for power are al-Qaeda's powerful affiliate and ISIS, which has carried out a series of large-scale attacks in Aden, including one last month that killed the governor of Aden province.
Sources had initially said the convoy was carrying Aden's new governor, Mr Aidarus al-Zubaidi, but he later told AFP he was not in the area at the time of the attack.
Mr Zubaidi survived a car bombing earlier this month, after being appointed last month following the murder of his predecessor Jaafar Saad in a bombing.
Witnesses said the latest blast damaged at least six vehicles and a nearby mosque.
Military vehicles from the Saudi-led coalition which supports Mr Hadi's government were deployed around the complex after the attack, security sources said.
The United Nations said more than 5,800 people - about half of them civilians - have been killed in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state since the Saudi-led coalition's air campaign was launched 10 months ago.
In a statement reported by news agencies, ISIS said the latest bombing was carried out by one of its fighters, whom it identified as Abu Hanifa al-Hollandi.
The war has devastated Yemen, the Middle East's poorest country and a long-time incubator of militant extremism.
In the latest measurement of deprivation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations said on Thursday that more than half of the population - about 14.4 million people - are "food insecure", which means they are struggling to avoid hunger.
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE