Wednesday 21 February 2018

Yemen IS branch 'behind mosque blast that killed 25'

Shiite fighters, known as Houthis, inspect the scene at the al-Balili mosque in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
Shiite fighters, known as Houthis, inspect the scene at the al-Balili mosque in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
The blast occurred on the day Muslims mark Eid-al-Adha

A Yemen-based affiliate of the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa that killed 25 people during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The explosion, which also wounded dozens of worshippers, tore through the al-Bolayli mosque in the morning hours, according to Yemeni security officials.

The mosque is located in an area where many residents support the Shiite rebels, also known as Houthis, who have controlled Sanaa since last September.

The IS affiliate's claim of responsibility came in a statement circulated on Twitter by the Sunni militant group's supporters. The statement said IS targeted the Shiite rebels, whom the Sunni extremists view as heretics.

The security officials, who remain neutral in the conflict that has splintered the country, said the suicide bomber placed an explosive device in his shoe, causing an initial explosion. As worshippers rushed to the door, he detonated himself in the middle of the crowd, they said.

There were puddles of blood and debris outside the mosque, whose ornate facade was damaged by the blast. Police and some Houthi fighters came to inspect the aftermath. Eid al-Adha is a major Muslim holiday, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice.

Yemen has been torn by a ferocious war pitting the Houthis and forces fighting for former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against fighters loyal to president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists.

The Islamic State affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings in Sanaa targeting Shiites in the past months. American officials initially expressed scepticism that the affiliate existed, as Yemen is also home to the world's most dangerous al Qaida offshoot.

Press Association

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