Fears of more attacks as suicide bomber kills dozens in Yemen

Blast fuels fears of further violence between Shia group and radical Sunni Islamists

People gather at the site of a suicide bombing as Yemeni security officials collect debris in Sanaa, yesterday. Photograph: AP

People gather at the site of a suicide bombing as Yemeni security officials collect debris in Sanaa, yesterday. Photograph: AP

 

A bomb blast tore through Tahrir Square in central Sana’a yesterday, killing dozens of supporters of the Houthi movement that controls the Yemeni capital and fuelling fears of more violence between the Shia group and radical Sunni Islamists.

The explosion underscored the mounting political and security vacuum in Sana’a, which came under Houthi control on September 21st shortly before a peace deal was signed between the group and the government.

Yemen’s health ministry estimated the attack left at least 47 people dead and 75 wounded, with the death toll likely to rise because a number of survivors were critically injured.

The suicide bomber detonated the device as Houthi supporters gathered for a rally in the square, creating a gruesome scene. An hour after the explosion, blood still stained the ground near the blast site and a pile of body parts lay in the open.

Government officials and analysts believe the attack was the work of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap), which seized a military compound in Sana’a in December 2013.

In September, Aqap declared war on the Houthis, whose manifesto includes the revival of the Zaydi form of Shia Islam largely unique to the north of Yemen.

Anti-US rhetoric

Washington

“The Americans did this,” said Abdullah Youssef, a Houthi supporter who stood guard at the scene of the bombing shortly after the explosion, in what amounts to an escalation of the group’s anti-US rhetoric.

Over the wail of sirens and chanting from the crowd gathered in the square , Youssef said that “da’ash” – slang for Islamic State often used as a catch-all term for al-Qaeda – and the US government were “the same”.

Such fiery rhetoric has been growing among Houthi supporters since their takeover of Sana’a. The night before the blast, the movement’s leader, Abdelmalek al-Houthi, a hardline critic of foreign intervention particularly from the US, accused the newly-appointed prime minister, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, of being an “agent of America” and demanded he step down.

The Tahrir bombing was the latest in a series of Aqap attacks in recent weeks, and many in the capital fear it will open the floodgates for widespread bloodletting, with the Houthis publicly vowing to attack the group in its southern strongholds. – (Guardian service)