Bombings claimed by IS kill 12 in southern Yemen
SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- An Islamic State affiliate launched a series of attacks in Yemen's southern port city of Mukalla on Monday, killing 12 people and wounding several others, officials said.
The attacks came as the government and Shiite Houthi rebels planned to suspend talks on ending Yemen's larger conflict, saying they had failed to reach a breakthrough in two months of negotiations held in Kuwait.
The officials said the attacks in Mukalla targeted intelligence offices, army barracks and checkpoints. Witnesses said gunfire echoed across the city, followed by ambulance sirens. The IS affiliate said in an online statement that it launched four suicide bombings against counterterrorism forces.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
An al-Qaida affiliate seized Mukalla and held it for a year before being driven out in April by a Saudi-led military coalition. Both al-Qaida and its rival, the IS group, have exploited the chaos of Yemen's war to seize territory and carry out attacks.
In Kuwait, meanwhile, two negotiators representing the Houthis and their allies, and one from the internationally-recognized government, told The Associated Press that the two sides were drafting a joint statement to announce that they will suspend talks until mid-July, following the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Iftar.
One of the negotiators, a minister in President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government, said "the return to the talks is meant to save face after reaching a deadlock."
The announcement came a day after U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon visited Kuwait, where the two sides have been meeting since April, to encourage them to reach a peace deal. He also called for the release of prisoners, including journalists and other political detainees, as a goodwill gesture ahead of the holiday.
The government has demanded the implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on the rebels to withdraw from all cities, including the capital, Sanaa, and hand over their heavy weapons. The Houthis want to form a unity government prior to any changes on the ground, according to the negotiators.
The negotiators spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The conflict pits the Houthis and security forces loyal to a former president against the internationally recognized government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition of mainly Arab states. The conflict has killed an estimated 9,000 people and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine.
A truce went into effect a week before the talks began, but the two sides have repeatedly accused each other of breaking it.