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'Massacre': At least 90 killed as bomber targets military parade rehearsal in Yemen

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a military parade rehearsal in Yemen's capital, killing more than 90 soldiers. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET: SANAA, Yemen  - A suicide bomber with explosives strapped under his uniform killed more than 90 people at a military parade rehearsal in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday, an attack which will alarm Washington as its involvement in the front-line state deepens. 

The bombing also wounded about 200 people, officials said, making it the bloodiest single incident in the city in recent years.

An al-Qaida source told the BBC that one of its own had carried out the attack.

Yemen's defense minister and chief of staff were both present at the rehearsal for Tuesday's National Day parade but neither was hurt. A police source said he could not rule out the bombing was an attempt to assassinate them. 

Weakened by an uprising that eventually toppled former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's government has lost control over whole swathes of the country, allowing militants to overrun several towns in the southern province of Abyan. 

The attack, along with an ambush on Sunday on a U.S. military training team in the south of the country, indicated their campaign could be entering a dangerous new stage. Troops closed in on a militant strongholds on Sunday in heavy fighting. 

More than 30 Yemeni troops killed in militant attack

A U.S. military instructor was seriously wounded in Sunday's ambush, which was claimed by militant group Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), which is affiliated to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). 

The United States sees Yemen as a vital front in its global war on Islamic militants and is increasing its military support for the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.  

The explosion in Sanaa's Sabaeen Square left scenes of carnage, with bloodied victims and body parts strewn across the 10-lane road where the rehearsal was held on Monday morning, not far from the presidential palace. 

The defense ministry said at least 90 soldiers were killed and 222 wounded.

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

Police collect evidence after a suicide bombing at a parade ground in Sanaa, Yemen, on Monday.

"We had just finished the parade. We were saluting our commander when a huge explosion went off," said soldier Amr Habib. "It was a gruesome attack. Many soldiers were killed and others had their arms and legs blown off."

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Another soldier told the Associated Press: "This is a real massacre. There are piles of torn body parts, limbs and heads. This is unbelievable."

One investigator said preliminary findings suggested the suicide bomber was a rogue soldier rather than a man in a disguise.

"The suicide bomber was dressed in a military uniform. He had a belt of explosives underneath," said a man who identified himself as Colonel Amin al-Alghabati, his hands and uniform flecked with blood.

The usual security procedure for such an event would involve checks being made on the soldiers at their bases before they are transported to the site of the parade in army vehicles.

The wounded were ferried to hospital in taxis.

Hospitals overwhelmed
"Most of the injuries are to the head, we have dozens paralyzed. We expect the death toll to rise. Most of the injured here are boys in their teens. Sanaa's hospitals are overwhelmed," said doctor Mohsen al-Dhahari.

In response to days of violence, Hadi fired two senior commanders and allies of his predecessor Saleh, who he replaced in February.

One of them, Yahya Saleh, the former president's nephew, was the head of national security, an intelligence gathering unit that works closely with the CIA. Most of those hurt were from this unit, the BBC reported. 

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Yemen has seen a spate of deadly attacks since Hadi took office saying he would extinguish an Islamist insurgency, which until now has been concentrated in the south.

The parade was scheduled for Tuesday to mark the unification of north and south Yemen, previously separate states, which were merged in 1990.  

Reuters, The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report. 

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