Blast at Yemen Munitions Plant Kills More Than 100

Blast at Yemen Munitions Plant Kills More Than 100
# 28 March 2011 22:01 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. An explosion at a munitions factory in southern Yemen killed more than 100 people, mostly local residents, after a group of unknown gunman had seized control of the site from the Yemeni military, according to witnesses and medical officials, APA reports quoting “The Wall Street Journal”.
The cause of Monday’s tragedy—and the events leading up to the powerful blast—are disputed by Yemen’s central government, which is clinging to power amid an increasingly tense political crisis, and local residents and medical officials who treated the injured and helped remove victims’ bodies from the site. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has warned that if he were pushed from office, al Qaeda would likely exploit the power vacuum and expand its reach in the strategically important Middle Eastern country.
Medical officials at the nearby Republican Hospital said that at least 124 people had been killed in the blast, and that among the corpses were women and children. Many of the bodies, however, were burned beyond recognition in the blast and resulting fires.
Security officials say the weapons factory and adjoining warehouse were seized on Sunday by al Qaeda-affiliated gunmen known to operate in the southern province of Abyan, one of the strongholds for the Islamist terrorist organization in the rugged Yemeni countryside. The officials didn’t explain how the gunmen took control of the site, called the 7th of October Munitions Factory, which is normally guarded by Yemeni security officials.
Residents contacted by telephone in the town of Hasn in Abyan, where the factory and warehouse are located, denied that the band of militants who stormed the plant on Sunday were al Qaeda. Instead, the militants appeared to be armed members of the southern separatist movement that also flourishes in the area, they said.
Witnesses said that the gunmen stole hundreds of thousands of bullets stored at the facility, and that local residents flocked to the warehouse on Monday in attempts to recover some loot as well. Yemen’s citizens are among the most heavily armed civilian population in the world.
The cause of the explosions appeared accidental, according to local residents and medical officials, who speculated that the blasts occurred when gun powder stored at the site ignited. Government security officials, however, said the blast was a calculated terror attack caused by al Qaeda militants who booby trapped the facility after they looted it Sunday.
"This was a trap by Islamic militants who thought that government forces would come to the scene after it was looted. They killed tens of innocent women and children by their inhumane plan," said one official.