A SUICIDE bomber driving a minibus killed at least 35 people yesterday as cadets gathered to enrol at a police academy in the heart of Yemen's capital Sanaa.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemen's local al-Qa'ida branch has carried out similar assaults in the past against the army and police, viewing them as US proxies.
The US provides counter-terrorism training and assistance to Yemeni forces, and frequently carries out drone strikes targeting al-Qa'ida.
At the scene of the blast, the dead and wounded lay on a footpath against a wall. Water sprayed by firefighters to extinguish the blaze mixed with their pooled blood. A charred taxi cab smouldered near what remained of the minibus, yards from a gate for the police academy, located in a residential area.
The bomber struck as lines of cadets waited outside the academy, preparing to enrol, witnesses said.
"It went off among all of them, and they flew through the air," eyewitness Jamil al-Khaleedi said.
The head of police in Sanaa, Abdul-Razak al-Moayed, said at least 33 people were killed.
Another security official said at least three civilians died. Violence has soared in Yemen since Shiite rebels known as Houthis swept down from their northern strongholds last year, capturing the capital and other cities.
The rebels are challenging the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, demanding a greater share of power.
But they are also going after al-Qa'ida, with clashes and targeted attacks leaving scores dead.
Critics of the rebels view them as a proxy for Shiite Iran bent on grabbing power, charges the rebels deny.
Tribal leaders and Yemeni officials have said the rising power of the Houthis, their advance into Sunni areas and the backlash over drone strikes has caused al-Qa'ida to surge in strength and find new recruits.
Washington considers al-Qa'ida's Yemen affiliate, linked to several failed attacks in the US, to be the most dangerous branch of the global terror network.