Bomb Attack Striking Yemen Houthi Shiites Kills 47 in Sana’aMohammed Hatem and Glen Carey
A bomb attack on a gathering of Shiite-Muslim Houthis in Yemen’s capital killed 47 people, a fortnight after the rebel group secured control of the city.
After the blast, the Al-Masirah broadcaster affiliated to the Houthi movement showed footage of a blood-stained street and Yemen police cordoning off the area in central Sana’a. The explosion, which the official Saba news agency said wounded 75 others, struck as Houthis assembled in Tahrir Square ahead of a protest against what they say is foreign interference in Yemen’s internal political affairs.
“It was a huge explosion,” said Mohamed Salim, who witnessed the blast. “I saw many dead bodies.”
Yemen’s political instability has deepened since Houthis from the country’s north entered the capital, took control of key buildings and last month forced authorities to change the cabinet. The Houthis, who now control most of the Sana’a, this week rejected President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi’s nominee for prime minister, saying he was imposed under U.S. pressure.
With Houthis entrenched in the capital, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called on its Sunni-Muslim militants to attack the Shiite rebels. A suicide bomber struck Houthi fighters in late September in the eastern province of Marib, according to al-Masdar independent news website.
“The Houthis are al-Qaeda’s primary enemy now,” Majed al-Mathhaji, an independent political analyst in Sana’a, said by telephone today. “The conflict between them is likely to increase.”
Deteriorating security across a country bigger than Spain has raised the prospect of the state’s collapse along tribal and sectarian lines, and has provided al-Qaeda with an area of operation outside of government control. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned last month that Yemen’s “circle of violence” could threaten regional and international security.
In the southeastern province of Hadramaut, a suicide attack on a security checkpoint killed 20 soldiers and injured 13, the official Saba news agency reported. Dozens of people were killed yesterday in clashes between al-Qaeda militants and Yemeni forces in the central province of al-Baidha.
The Houthis started protests weeks ago and positioned arms and personnel on the outskirts of Sana’a to pressure Hadi to dissolve his cabinet and rescind a decision to raise fuel prices. As Hadi failed to resolve the crisis, the Houthis advanced from the capital’s outskirts toward the center of the city, finally seizing most of the city and forcing concessions from Hadi.
The Houthis, named after the group’s founder Hussein al-Houthi, say they face discrimination from Yemen’s Sunni majority. In July, the rebels grabbed government and military buildings in Amran, a city northwest of the capital, after four days of heavy fighting.
Their fight for autonomy is only one of the conflicts destabilizing Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula. The government has been battling al-Qaeda militants, and there’s a separatist movement in the south. Popular unrest erupted in 2011, when protests drove President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, and his successor Hadi has struggled to restore order in the nation of 25 million.
Armed Houthi rebels deployed around the area of the blast and prevented anyone from approaching the square.