A car bomb targeting security forces killed two people Thursday in Yemen, where troops are hunting Al-Qaeda jihadists believed behind two US-bound parcel bombs as well as radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi.
The blast tore through a market near security headquarters in the south Yemen town of Daleh, killing two people, one a policeman, and wounding 22, a security official said.
"A bomb planted in the car of a police officer exploded in the qat (mild narcotic leaf) market near the security headquarters" in Daleh, capital of the province of the same name, the official said.
"One policeman and one civilian were killed and 22 others wounded," he said.
A hospital official in the town told AFP that several of the wounded were seriously hurt.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
Yemen's security forces have been battling a separatist movement in the south, and are also hunting suspected Al-Qaeda jihadists believed behind two parcel bombs posted to the United States from Yemen and which were discovered in Dubai and Britain a week ago.
Washington believes the parcel bombs were the work of Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, a suspected Al-Qaeda bombmaker, who is believed hiding out in south Yemen.
Over the past decade, Yemen has morphed into a haven for violent extremists, becoming the headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the hiding place for US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, who was linked to high-profile terror plots in the United States.
Amid growing Western pressure on Sanaa to crack down on the jihadists, Yemeni prosecutors on Tuesday charged Awlaqi, in absentia, for alleged links to Al-Qaeda and incitement to kill foreigners -- the first time Yemen has brought charges against the cleric.
Awlaqi, has been linked to a US army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25.
In Abyan, another southern province, Yemeni security forces on Thursday surrounded the town of Jaar, where soldiers and suspected Al-Qaeda militants clashed the previous day, in preparation for an assault, a Yemeni official said.
"Forces surrounded the town and were preparing to assault the houses where Al-Qaeda elements have taken refuge," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"A meeting of security forces commanders was held in Zinjibar and it was decided to clear the town of Al-Qaeda elements," the official said.
Jaar, considered a stronghold of Al-Qaeda in southern Yemen, is located seven kilometres (4.3 miles) north of Zinjibar, the main town in Abyan.
"The militants still present in the town this morning buried one of their dead, Ali Abu Abdulrahman, who was killed in fighting in the town on Wednesday," the official said.
Other than the suspected Al-Qaeda militant, one soldier was killed and 10 others wounded in an operation in which the the defence ministry said three wanted men were arrested, while a fourth escaped.
South Yemen, a region that was independent from the 1967 British withdrawal to 1990 and where many residents complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government, is the site of frequent protests and periodic unrest.