White House condemns Yemen suicide bombings

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House condemned the twin suicide bombings on Yemeni mosques that killed at least 142 worshippers on Friday, but said it was too early to pin the blame on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

Describing the attacks in Sanaa as unprovoked, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there is not, as yet, a "clear operational" link between Yemeni extremists and the ISIS.

"The United States strongly condemns today's suicide bombings," Earnest said. "We express our condolences to the families of the victims, we deplore the brutality of the terrorists who perpetrated today's unprovoked attack on Yemeni citizens, who were peacefully engaged in Friday prayers."

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said "this unconscionable attack on Muslim worshipers during Friday prayers only further highlights the depth of the terrorists' depravity and the threat they pose to the people of Yemen, the region and the world." She urged all Yemenis to be unified in their fight against terror.

In an online statement, the previously unknown Sanaa branch of ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings and said they were "just the tip of the iceberg."

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula issued a statement saying it had nothing to do with the bombings.

The White House said: "We cannot at this point confirm the veracity of the claim." "We have seen these kinds of claims in the past from other extremist groups," Earnest said, adding that claims of allegiance to the ISIS are often made for propaganda purposes.

On Thursday, air raids targeted the presidential palace in Yemen's southern city of Aden and intense fighting broke out at the airport.

"We urge all Yemeni parties to halt unilateral and offensive military actions," Meehan said in condemning those assaults on Yemen's "legitimate government" and calling for renewed political dialogue.