Deadly bombing at Yemen mosque claimed by ISIS

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SHAFAQNA - A suicide bomber and a subsequent car bombing claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, killed at least 20 people Wednesday at a mosque in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sana’a, amid the country’s raging civil war, officials said.

The suicide bomber blew himself up inside the mosque during the evening call to prayers, while the car bomb exploded outside an entrance, they said. Medical officials said 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.

One witness, Hamid Ali, said the explosions left body parts and bloodied floors in the mosque frequented by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Those wounded pleaded for help.

In a message circulated on social media, Yemen’s local ISIS affiliate claimed the bombing, identifying the suicide attacker as Quay al-Sanaani and saying the assault was revenge against the Shiite militiamen known as Houthis that have secured Sana’a.

The ISIS affiliate in Yemen has carried out similar attacks targeting mosques, including a series of suicide bombings on March 20 in Sana’a that killed 137 people and wounding 345.

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis captured Sanaa last September.

The Houthis are fighting alongside army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces allied to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Saudi coalition. A Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition has been launching airstrikes against the rebels since March.

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

Earlier Wednesday, gunmen shot dead two Yemenis working for the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday as they were traveling from the northern Saada province to the capital, Sanaa, the group said.

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

The attack it is believed was carried out by militants affiliated to either Al Qaeda or ISIS.

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

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-Saudi fighters were also killed in the clashes in the same period, independent security officials and witnesses said.

Pro-Saudi 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.

In a Wednesday report, Human Rights Watch slammed Saudi Arabia for serious abuses against civilians and fighters in its forces 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.

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