Sana’a: Yemen Medical and security officials say a gunman opened fire Sunday on worshippers on Eid Al Fitr in southern Yemen, killing nine people.

The gunman targeted men praying outside a crowded mosque in Al Dhale, a governorate about 190km south of the capital Sana’a, during morning prayers. Nine people were killed and another 10 wounded, the officials said.

The gunman was arrested at the scene, officials said.

About 100 people have been killed in similar mosque shootings in Yemen in the last three years by people believed to be suffering from mental disorders or in tribal conflicts, according to the officials.

Also Sunday, a Yemeni security official said a suicide bomber blew himself up in a town in the southern governorate of Abyan, killing a leading member of a civilian militia that has fought alongside government troops to drive Al Qaida militants from their southern strongholds.

Another security official said Sunday that the death toll from an attack Saturday on a government building in Abyan rose to 21, after a soldier died of wounds sustained when militants stormed the local intelligence headquarters.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to reporters.

The attack in the heart of the port city of Aden underscored Al Qaida’s ability to launch deadly strikes despite a two-month Yemeni military offensive backed by the US.

In a televised speech late Saturday, President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi pledged to fight terrorism and urged Yemenis to support his government as the country goes through a “dangerous and sensitive phase”.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered to for Eid prayers Sunday in Change Square in Sanaa, scene of mass protests last year against Hadi’s predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The worshippers also demonstrated, demanding removal of Saleh’s loyalists from key posts.

Saleh ruled Yemen for more than 30 years but was forced out of office by protests inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

Since he was toppled in a power transfer deal that gave him immunity from prosecution, he is believed to be playing a behind-the-scenes role, hindering the new president’s plans to restructure the military and security forces and unify their ranks.