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A suicide bomber struck at a wake in Yemen's southern city of Jaar overnight, killing at least 35 people and wounding dozens more including the leader of a local group fighting al Qaeda-linked militants, officials and medics say.
The bomber appeared to have been targeting the commander of the Popular Committees, a group of tribal fighters that fought alongside the Yemeni army during an offensive against Ansar al-Sharia militants in the region. The government had hailed the campaign then as a major victory in June.
"The total number of deaths increased to 35 from 25 last night. Most of them died at the hospital," said a local official, declining to be named under briefing rules. He added that charred bodies of men lay around the site.
The leader of a committee of local residents fighting al Qaeda, Abdul Latif Al Sayed, was injured and taken to hospital, local officials said. Two of his brothers were also killed in the attack.
The attack highlighted the enduring threat of Islamist militancy in Yemen and may alarm the United States and Saudi Arabia, which increasingly view the impoverished state as a front line in their war on al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) seized several towns in Abyan last year, establishing a foothold there while then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was grappling with mass protests that eventually toppled him.
The United States supported the military campaign that drove the Islamist fighters from their strongholds in June, but residents and analysts say the militants are simply lying low and waiting for a chance to regroup.