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At least 37 killed, ISIS targets recruits at Yemeni security compound - reports

At least 37 people have been killed following a suicide bombing in the port city of Mukalla in Yemen, according to AFP. Terrorist group Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted police recruits at a security compound.

Local hospitals were also treating another 25 people injured in the attack, according to the agency.

Sunday’s attack in the southern sea port is the second deadly blast to hit the city, a former hub for Al-Qaeda before the group was pushed out following a government military offensive in April.

In a message on its online news agency Amaq, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) reportedly said the attacker was a "martrydom-seeker" who had detonated his explosive belt.

Catherine Shakdam of the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies told RT that the city of 200,000 people is likely being targeted due to its strategic importance. 

“Mukalla in the Hadhramaut province is a strategically important area where most of the oil and resources are present. It also represents a strategic point as well because it offers an opening to the sea and on to the horn of Africa and to Asia,” she said.

“Al-Qaeda and other groups have tried for many years to get a footing in southern Yemen, even through Aden or Mukalla, but this is not really a return as they never really left,” she added. 

The Yemeni conflict that started as a dispute between factions, claiming to constitute the Yemeni government, reached a boiling point in March 2015. Then Houthi forces controlling the capital Sana'a, allied with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, clashed with forces loyal to the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, based in Aden.

A coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, launched military operations using airstrikes to restore the exiled Yemeni government. At least 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi bombing campaign, according to an April report by UNICEF. The war has ravaged the impoverished country, with over 80 percent of its 25 million inhabitants now in need of some form of aid, and over a million displaced by the fighting, according to the UN.

The Pentagon admitted last week that in addition to helping the Saudi-led coalition invade Yemen, the US has deployed a small number of troops on the ground to battle Al-Qaeda militants around a key port city. Later, Mukalla was confirmed as the place of deployment.

Yemeni troops allied with the Saudi-led coalition claim to have killed over 800 Al-Qaeda fighters in a joint military operation against the terror group in Yemen in April. They also allegedly managed to recapture Mukalla late last month.

Although a fragile UN-sponsored ceasefire between the Houthis and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government has been in force since early April, the fight against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), who are still in control of the territory along stretches of the coast, is still underway.