55 dead in mosque bombings in Yemen capital: medics

SANASANAA: Triple suicide bombings killed 55 people Friday at mosques in the Yemeni capital attended by Shiite Houthi militiamen who have seized control of the city, medics said. Dozens more were wounded.

One bomb exploded inside Badr mosque in southern Sanaa, and was followed by another at the gate as worshippers fled, witnesses said. The third suicide bomber targeted Al-Hashahush mosque in northern Sanaa.

The Huthi militia’s Al-Massira television said hospitals in the capital had made urgent appeals for blood donations.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The attacks are the deadliest since a car bomb killed 40 people and wounded dozens more at a police academy in Sanaa in January as recruits lined up to register. Yemen’s top security body blamed Al Qaeda for that blast although a leader of the jihadist network denied responsibility.

The Houthis overran Sanaa in September and have since tightened their grip on power. Their attempts to extend their control into other areas have been met by deadly resistance from Sunni tribes and Al Qaeda.

Front line against Al-Qaeda

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is regarded by the United States as the extremist network’s deadliest branch. Yemen, a front line in the US war on Al Qaeda, has descended into chaos since the 2012 ouster of longtime strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been accused of backing the Houthis.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi escaped Houthi house arrest in Sanaa last month and fled to the southern city of Aden, where violence has erupted in recent days.

A security official said Friday that a top Yemeni officer linked to the Houthis had escaped an assassination bid near Aden overnight. Four people were killed in an ambush on the Lahj-Taiz road but General Abdel Hafedh al-Sakkaf, the special forces chief in Aden, escaped unharmed, said the official from Lahj.

He said the attack took place in Al-Athawir as Sakkaf fled Aden in a convoy to Lahj, on its way towards militia-held Sanaa.

“He escaped the assassination bid but a bodyguard was shot dead, while three others died when their vehicle overturned,” the official said.

The attack came as forces loyal to Hadi tightened their control over Aden where the situation was calm early Friday. Troops loyal to Hadi and their allied Popular Committees paramilitary manned checkpoints, an AFP correspondent reported.

Hadi himself had to evacuate a presidential palace in Aden on Thursday after a fighter jet opened fire, hitting a nearby hill. At least seven special forces fighters and four members of the Popular Committees were killed in clashes in Aden on Thursday, security sources said, and 54 were wounded on the two sides.

The violence forced the closure of the city’s airport, which Sakkaf’s forces tried to seize but were repelled by pro-Hadi troops and paramilitaries. Following the Houthi takeover of Sanaa, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries moved their embassies to Aden and several Western missions closed their doors in the capital because of security concerns.

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