After bombing, somber Yemen marks National Day

Associated Press Modified: May 22, 2012 at 7:01 am •  Published: May 22, 2012
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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Grieving Yemenis held somber ceremonies Tuesday to mark the country's National Day following a suicide bombing a day earlier that killed nearly 100 soldiers and deeply shook the faith of many people in the nation's future.

Months of mass protests pushed longtime authoritarian ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh from power early this year, fueling hopes that the Arab world's poorest country could finally get on track. But Monday's blast during a rehearsal for a military parade that left scenes of carnage in the capital made clear to many in Yemen just how daunting the challenges facing the country are.

"No holidays, no revolutions and no state. Nothing. Everything is over," said teacher Assiya Thabit at Sanaa's Change Square, which was the heart of the anti-Saleh uprising. "We are following in the footsteps of Somalia and Afghanistan."

Deeply shocked by the bloodshed, some Yemenis lashed out at Saleh, suspecting that his associates had a hand in the violence.

"Saleh has destroyed everything in our souls and minds," said Ahmed Rakin, a 25-year-old protester. "What happened is the price the nation pays for Saleh's ceding power."

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been in a behind-the-scenes power struggle with Saleh since taking over from him in February as part of a U.S.-backed power transfer deal, led a symbolic parade held inside Sanaa's Aviation Academy Tuesday for National Day, which marks the 1990 reunification of north and south Yemen.

Sitting behind a bulletproof glass shield, Hadi was joined by top military commanders, government officials and foreign diplomats.

Security concerns were paramount, and the parade that was originally planned for a major square in central Sanaa was scaled back and moved to the academy after Monday's attack, when a Yemeni soldier detonated a bomb hidden in his uniform during a rehearsal for a military parade.