Blast at Yemeni polling station


An explosion tore through a polling station in the southern Yemeni city of Aden today, followed by gunfire that killed one soldier, a day before a presidential vote to replace Ali Abudllah Saleh.

Interior minister Abdul Qader Qahtan said in the capital Sanaa that security measures were in place but some violence in the southern province of Abyan, a stronghold of al Qaeda militants, was unavoidable.

"There are preventive security measures to confront any contingency ... to confront any group that may attack people," Mr Qahtan told a news conference. "Abyan still has many districts under the control of al Qaeda, there are security failures ... and an explosion here and there is expected."

The explosion at the Aden polling station caused no casualties but one soldier was killed and another was injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire on an army patrol in the vicinity. It was unclear if the two incidents were related.

"The explosion caused a big hole in the building's wall and shattered the windows of nearby houses," a Yemeni official said, adding that both incidents were under investigation. 

Millions of Yemenis vote tomorrow in an election in which vice president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, representing Mr Saleh's supporters and opponents, is the only candidate.

A year of protests and unrest have forced Mr Saleh to end his 33-year rule. Southern secessionists and Houthi Shia rebels in the north are boycotting the vote but analysts say they are unlikely to be involved in violence to disrupt it.

In the south a powerful branch of al-Qaeda is active and has controlled a number of cities there for nearly a year.

Mr Saleh handed power to Mr Hadi in November under a power-transfer deal brokered by Gulf Arab states with the help of the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.