A YEMEN-based affiliate of the Islamic State group 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 yesterday.
The explosion, which also wounded dozens of worshippers, tore through the al-Bolayli mosque in the morning, 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 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. The officials, remain neutral in the conflict that has splintered the country.
There were puddles of blood and debris outside the mosque, whose ornate facade was damaged. 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-Qaeda offshoot.
IS bomb attacks targeting several Shia mosques in Sanaa on March 21 killed 142 people. The group has also claimed attacks on mosques in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The capital of Sunni-majority Yemen has been under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels for the past year. The Houthis have also expanded their grip to other parts of the country. Houthis, backed by forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-president, took over parts of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, and forced the government into exile in March.
The rebels accused the government of corruption and of planning to marginalise their heartland within a proposed federal system
Sunni neighbour Saudi Arabia, fearing a Shia takeover of Yemen, is leading a coalition in a military campaign to repel the rebels and restore the exiled government.
Pro-government forces backed by air strikes and troops provided by a Saudi-led Arab coalition have recently managed to wrest back some southern provinces, including the second city of Aden.