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Islamic State claims responsibility for mosque bombs in Yemen's capital, Sanaa

Published 02/09/2015

Yemen has been hit by blasts in a mosque that have killed at least 20 people
Yemen has been hit by blasts in a mosque that have killed at least 20 people

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for two bombs that killed at least 20 people at a mosque in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

A suicide bomber blew himself up inside the mosque during the evening call to prayers and a car bomb exploded outside an entrance, according to officials in the country.

Medical officials say the death toll may rise with people now in operating rooms in several hospitals.

Witnesses said the car bomb exploded while people were carrying out the wounded from inside the mosque, adding to the casualties.

In a message circulated on social media, Yemen's Islamic State affiliate claimed the bombing, identifying the suicide attacker as Quay al-Sanaani and saying the assault was revenge against the Shiite rebels known as Houthis that hold Sanaa.

The Islamic State affiliate in Yemen has carried out similar attacks targeting mosques, including a series of suicide bombings on March 20 in Sanaa that killed 137 people and injured 345.

The Houthis captured Sanaa last September. They are fighting alongside army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as well as southern separatists and local militias. A Saudi-led and US-backed coalition has been launching airstrikes against the rebels since March.

The conflict has killed more than 2,100 civilians, according to the United Nations.

Gunmen had earlier shot dead two Yemenis working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as they were travelling from the northern Saada province to the capital, according to the group.

Rima Kamal, an ICRC spokeswoman in Sanaa, said the two were killed in Amran province.

Both Amran and Saada are fully controlled by the Houthis.

The UN's humanitarian coordinator for the country, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, and UN humanitarian coordinator Stephen O'Brien both condemned the attack on the Red Cross workers.

Saudi Arabia's civil defence said seven people were wounded when a missile fired from inside Yemen struck three vehicles in al-Tuwal village in the Jizan border province.

Last month, pro-government forces backed by Saudi-led airstrikes drove the rebels out of Yemen's southern port city of Aden after heavy fighting.

In Marib province, more than 20 Houthis were killed in ground clashes with pro-government forces and in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition since Tuesday night, independent security officials and medical officials said. Nine pro-government fighters were also killed in the clashes in the same period.

Pro-government forces, who control the Marib province capital, are preparing for a large attack in the next two days, along with support from the Saudi-led coalition, anti-Houthi officials said. If they successfully clear the province of Houthi forces, the pro-government forces could then proceed to Jawf province, and then to Saada, the Houthis' stronghold in the north.

Human Rights Watch said both sides committed serious abuses against civilians and fighters in their custody during fighting there, with southern militants killing at least seven Houthi prisoners since March.

"Southern forces that have regained control of Aden should end abuses against prisoners and do all they can to establish law and order in the city," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for the U.S.-based rights group. "The Houthis need to release anyone wrongfully detained and account for everyone they are holding."

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