28 die in bombing of Shiite mosque in Yemen

Yemenis transport a severely injured man on a gurney as he arrives at a hospital in Sanaa after being injured when two suicide bombers hit a Shiite mosque in the Yemeni capital in quick succession on Sept 2 this year.
Yemenis transport a severely injured man on a gurney as he arrives at a hospital in Sanaa after being injured when two suicide bombers hit a Shiite mosque in the Yemeni capital in quick succession on Sept 2 this year. PHOTO: AFP
A Yemeni boy comforts an injured boy at a hospital in Sanaa.
A Yemeni boy comforts an injured boy at a hospital in Sanaa.PHOTO: AFP

SANAA (AFP) - A suicide bomber hit a Shiite mosque in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday, killing at least 28 people in the latest such attack to be claimed by the Islamic State group.

The attack came hours after the Red Cross said a gunman killed two of its Yemeni employees in the war-torn country's rebel-held north in a "deliberate" attack.

The Islamic State group said a man identified as Qusai al-Sanaani blew himself inside the mosque in the northern Jarraf district after sunset prayers.

In a statement on Twitter, the radical Sunni Muslim IS added that a bomb-laden vehicle parked nearby exploded as medics arrived on the scene.

The attack was to "avenge Muslims against the Rafidah (Shiites)," said the statement.

IS, which considers Shiites to be heretics, has claimed similar bombings of other Shiite mosques in Sanaa as well as in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Its account of the attack was confirmed by sabanews.net, the website of the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels that control Sanaa.

Medical officials said at least 28 people were killed and 75 wounded, and the rebel website said that figure was "not final".

An AFP reporter heard two loud explosions followed by many sirens as ambulances rushed to the scene.

Body parts were blown several metres away from the scene and nearby buildings were damaged, witnesses said.

They reported heavy deployment of Huthi gunmen, who set up new checkpoints across the capital right after the bombings.

Jarraf district is home to many senior Huthi figures, and the Al-Muayad mosque is among their main places of worship in Sanaa.

Earlier on Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a gunman killed two of its employees in an "appalling" and "brutal" attack.

The pair had been travelling north of Sanaa with two other colleagues in vehicles "clearly" marked with the Red Cross emblem, said the Geneva-based ICRC.

"Sadly, two of our staff were brutally killed on their way back from Saada to Sanaa," spokeswoman Rima Kamal said.

Saada is the northern stronghold of the Huthis, who are at war with loyalists of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Ms Kamal said the unidentified gunman opened fire on the two vehicles after stopping them in Amran province, which has been under Huthi control since last year.

"One of our colleagues passed away on the spot while another sustained critical injuries and was transferred to an MSF (Doctors Without Borders) hospital... where he passed away shortly after," she told AFP. The two others were unharmed.

The head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, Mr Antoine Grand, identified the dead as a field officer and a driver.

"The ICRC condemns in the strongest possible terms what appears to have been the deliberate targeting of our staff," said Mr Grand.

"It is premature for us at this point to determine the impact of this appalling incident on our operations in Yemen."

But Ms Sitara Jabeen, an ICRC spokeswoman in Geneva, said that "after this incident we have stopped all our movements in the country for the time being."

The ICRC said it was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, noting there had been a number of security incidents involving the organisation in recent months.

On August 25, the ICRC said it had suspended its operations in Yemen's second city Aden after gunmen robbed its main office while holding staff at gunpoint.

The organisation has stepped up its relief activities in Yemen since the rebels entered Aden in March, prompting Hadi to flee to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has led a military intervention to restore him to power.

The ICRC says it provides vital humanitarian support to hundreds of thousands of people in need across war-ravaged Yemen.