Yemen: Bombs kill 135 at mosques; ISIS purportedly lays claim

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SANAA, Yemen (CNN) — [Breaking news update, published at 1:10 p.m. ET]

Audio and video statements purportedly from ISIS claim that the terror group is responsible for Friday’s suicide bombings that reportedly killed more than 130 people at two mosques in Yemen’s capital. The statements were posted on ISIS-affiliated websites.

The written statement, posted on a site that has carried ISIS statements in the past, called Friday’s attacks “a tip of an iceberg,” It said that five suicide bombers carried out attacks Friday on Houthis, primarily in Sanaa.

The voice in the separate audio statement is similar to one featured in Thursday’s audio message in which ISIS claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s deadly attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunisia.

Friday’s audio message claims the five suicide bombers killed dozens of “Houthi infidels.”

ISIS is not known to have previously carried out a large-scale attack in Yemen.

CNN cannot independently verify the legitimacy of Friday’s statements.

Houthi-backed TV station Al Masirah reported that 135 people were killed in Friday’s attacks, with 345 other people injured.

[Original story, published at 12:18 p.m. ET]

Yemen: Bombs kill 120 at mosques frequented by rebels in capital

Suicide bombers on Friday attacked two mosques frequented by Shiite rebels who recently seized control of Yemen’s capital, killing 120 people and injuring more than 300 others, two officials with the rebel group said.

The mosques in Sanaa served members of the minority Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam — the sect followed by the Houthi militant group that recently took control of the capital of the majority Sunni Muslim nation and forced President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee.

It’s one of the worst recent, single days of violence during a complicated struggle for control of a country where the Shiite rebels are opposed not only by Hadi supporters and Sunni Muslim tribes, but also the Sunni Muslim terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which exerts control in some rural areas of the country.

Among those killed Friday was prominent Houthi religious leader Murtatha Al Mahathwari, the state-run Saba news agency said.

Video distributed by Reuters showed people removing bodies from one of the mosques, where a carpeted floor was littered with debris.

No claims of responsibility for the blasts were immediately made public.

Also Friday, a separate explosion rocked a government compound in the Houthi stronghold city of Saada — 180 kilometers (112 miles) northeast of Sanaa — killing two people and seriously injuring a third, according to Abu Khalil Al Ameri, a local Houthi security official.

The attacks came two months after Houthis — who have long felt marginalized by the majority Sunnis in Yemen and have battled the central government for more than a decade — seized the presidential palace in Sanaa.

The explosions also came a day after deadly fighting erupted between Houthi-controlled forces and military units still loyal to Hadi in the port city of Aden, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Sanaa.

The Houthi takeover of Sanaa stunned governments of Western nations, including the United States, which had a long relationship with Yemen’s leader, working with the regime to target AQAP militants.

U.S. officials frequently say AQAP is one of the most dangerous terror groups in the world, based on their attempts to attack U.S. interests, including an attempt to blow up an American jetliner over Detroit in December 2009.

The United States, along with most European and Persian Gulf countries, suspended operations in their embassies this year after the Houthis took Sanaa. But the United States’ anti-AQAP drone program in Yemen continued, with a U.S. drone strike killing senior AQAP cleric Harith bin Ghazi al-Nadhari and three other people in Shabwa province on January 31.

Blasts inside, outside mosques

In Friday’s assaults at Al Badr mosque and Al Hashoosh mosque in Sanaa, suicide bombings started inside the buildings, followed two minutes later by explosions outside, perhaps to target those fleeing the preliminary blasts, two senior Houthi leaders in Sanaa said.

At Al Badr mosque, the outdoor explosion was another suicide bombing; at Al Hashoosh mosque, the exterior blast was a car bomb, the two leaders said.

“We check people and watch at times, but it’s a mosque, and we can’t check everyone who enters,” said Ali Al Emad, a Houthi security worker at Al Hashoosh mosque.

Houthis entered Sanaa in September, demanding a greater share of political power. They took control over a period of months, seizing the presidential palace in January.

The Houthis hold sway in the nation’s north but have less influence elsewhere. They took control of military forces stationed near Sanaa, including the air force, as they overtook the government there in January.

Hadi initially was put under house arrest in Sanaa, but he escaped last month, fleeing to Aden and declaring himself to still be President.

Houthi airstrikes targeted Aden palace

On Thursday, a Yemeni jet commanded by the Houthis fired missiles at a palace where Hadi was taking refuge in Aden, injuring no one but marking an escalation in deadly fighting that’s erupted between forces for and against the ousted leader.

The jet flew from Sanaa to the palace in Aden, where the jet conducted the strikes Thursday afternoon, a senior air force official said on condition of anonymity.

Hadi was at the Aden palace compound when the first missile struck the grounds, but he then fled safely, a Hadi aide said, also on condition of anonymity.

A second missile struck near the compound but, like the first, injured no one, two officials in Aden said.

The airstrikes came on the same day that opposing Yemeni military forces — those commanded by Houthis, and those led by officers loyal to Hadi — battled in Aden, leaving at least 13 people dead and 21 others injured, Aden Gov. AbdulAziz Hobtour said.

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1 Comment

  • Kal Gandikota

    As-Salamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu!

    World watches instantly via internet what’s going on. News and comments posted via Internet are being probably read by nations across the world. Hence please don’t be frustrated. Imagine you were at a festive gathering and a fight broke out between family members…everyone at the gathering are watching and doesn’t it generate awkward feelings? As a match-stick can set forest trees on fire and char them and those amongst them, tongue has the power to set minds on fire. Hence please be wise, humble, compassionate and impartial in your judgements.

    It’s not possible to understand even our parents or closest kin all the time… But what keeps the bond is love. In love, there is understanding, forgiveness and mutual respect. It brings peace and positive ideas. It completely cleans out hatred and only love remains in one’s heart. It’s like the sugar that makes a bitter coffee sweet. I do not wish nobody hates nobody for the problems though we were at the same level as them when we came out of our mother’s wombs (without malice and deceit)..I wish you understand my message of peace, love and hope. I am not affiliated with any religion; however I would say everyone who loves is born of God to make known the father’s presence amongst us. Everyone who loves cherishes life. Everyone who comes to know the value of life is for peace. And where there is peace, there is hope for the living. When there is hope every member of community strives for its prosperity.

    Since Love is the starting point for building hope…how can we trigger love instead of a weapon?
    1. By Authoritarian Regime?
    2. By Protests?
    3. By Education?
    4. By Spreading One’s own “Religion”?
    5. Improving Economy?

    Though all of the above help alleviate human suffering, for the last three millenniums the history shows that they failed to generate hope and trust among all responsible individuals of communities, cities and even nations! The only force/education/religion/wealth that kept even the most homogenous societies together is “Agape Love”. [Broadly love is of three types: Philos (family, brothers, sisters, friends), Eros (between lovers; men/women/gay), Agape (of strangers/helpers/givers).]

    Agape Love is being patient, empathetic and compassionate to God’s creation (Animate & inanimate). By Animate, I mean all living creatures and not just human beings! By Inanimate, I mean all non-living like Water, Air, Sun, Earth, stars, universe etc. (However inanimate is also living in God’s view)…When you say you love God, you are expressing your “Agape Love” to him. Exercising “Agape Love” is the toughest exercise. Yes…it’s the toughest exercise any body-builder, sports athlete, Military personnel, Law-enforcement, revolutionaries etc. can do! I challenge everyone in Sanaa and you; do you have it in you to exercise “Agape Love”?

    Being patient does not mean ‘apathy’ (lack of interest). By being empathetic does not mean one changes their view and accepts others view like switching TV channels. By being compassionate does not mean, you let someone who blinded your one eye to blind the other one too….That’s why I mean it’s the toughest exercise….Agape love starts with Patience…and members of different parts of community (including Govt officials) may sit together (civic engagement) every day and once in a while to meditate what’s good for themselves, society, humanity and creation as a whole…It need not happen only in Sanaa or Mecca or Vatican City or Washington D.C. Or New York City or any world capital or even in Heaven… It should start in your own small town in a Coffee shop, in a sport’s field or soccer field, online, or park or just in a plain ground where everyone can hear everyone else…And that’s the true gathering of people in God’s Name!

    Allah Yusallmak!

    Kal Gandikota

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