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Yemen crisis: Dozens die in suicide attacks on Sanaa mosques

Friday 20 March 2015, by siawi3

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31983627
20 March 2015 Last updated at 14:04

BBC Arabic’s Mohamed Yehia described the attacks as “unprecedented”

Suicide bombers have attacked two mosques in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing at least 50 people and wounding 100 others, medics say.

Worshippers were attending noon prayers at the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques when at least three attackers struck.

TV footage showed bodies lying in pools of blood outside the mosques, as people rushed the wounded to hospital.

The mosques are used mainly by supporters of the Zaidi Shia-led Houthi rebel movement, which controls Sanaa.

There are severe tensions between the rebels and various powerful, armed elements in Yemen, including militants from al-Qaeda.

Blood ’running like river’

Witnesses said at least two suicide bombers attacked the Badr mosque, in the south of Sanaa.

One entered the building and detonated his explosive device among dozens of worshippers, the witnesses added. Survivors then sought to escape through the main gates, where the second bomber was waiting.
A man carries a wounded girl after a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen (20 March 2015) Jihadist militant groups have targeted Houthi supporters several times in recent months
Injured people are carried out of one of the two mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, targeted by suicide bombers (20 March 2015) Hospitals in Sanaa issued an urgent appeal for donations of blood after the bombings

Al Jazeera reported that the prominent Houthi cleric al-Murtada bin Zayd al-Mahatwari, the imam of the Badr mosque, was among those killed.

A man who was at the al-Hashoosh mosque, in a northern district of the capital, said he was thrown about 2m (6ft) by the blast.

“The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque,” Mohammed al-Ansi told Associated Press news agency, adding that “blood is running like a river”.

Mr Ansi said that many of those who were not killed by the explosion were seriously injured by shattered glass that fell from the mosque’s windows.

The rebel-run al-Masirah TV channel broadcast footage from inside the al-Hashoosh mosque showing volunteers using bloodied blankets to carry away victims. Bodies were also lined up in the prayer hall.
Aftermath of suicide bomb attack at a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen (20 March 2015) The bombers detonated their explosive devices among people attending Friday prayers

Map showing Houthi areas of influence

Al-Masirah reported that hospitals in the city had made urgent appeals for blood donations to help treat the large number of casualties.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the bombings.

Yemen is the base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a powerful offshoot of the jihadist militant group that has carried out similar suicide attacks on Houthi supporters.

However, Islamic State (IS) is also gaining ground in the country after formally announcing the creation of a local branch in November.

On Friday, prominent supporters said on social media that IS militants were behind the bombings, but there was no official claim from the group. If confirmed, the attacks would be the first carried out by IS in Yemen.
Militiamen loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi travel on top of a tank in Aden, southern Yemen (19 March 2015) On Thursday, a battle for control of Aden’s international airport left several people dead

The bombings come a day after deadly clashes in the southern city of Aden, between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those supporting his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Warplanes later targeted the presidential palace in Aden, where Mr Hadi has been based since fleeing Sanaa last month after the rebels placed him under effective house arrest.

The president, who aides said was evacuated to a “safe place” after the air raid, described Thursday’s events in Aden as a “failed military coup against constitutional legitimacy”.

Mr Saleh was forced to hand over power to Mr Hadi in 2011 after mass protests, but has remained a power-broker. He is currently allied with the Houthis, against whom he fought wars when he was president.