At least 142 people were killed on Friday in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa as suicide bombings ripped through two mosques, killing dozens of worshippers at prayer. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Yesterday the Houthi rebels took control of Taiz, the third largest city in Yemen.
These are the latest incidents in Yemen’s escalating civil war between Iranian backed Shiite Houthi rebels, forces loyal to the ousted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and extremist Sunni groups.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State are both operating in Yemen and attempting to seize control of the jihadist movement there.
Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in September.
The bombings came a day after an unidentified warplane hit the presidential palace in the port city of Aden on Thursday, where the beleaguered President Hadi has taken refuge from the fighting. Clashes at Aden’s airport between forces loyal to Hadi and a rogue general who backs the Houthis forced the airport to close.
Saudi Arabia condemned the airstrike and called on both sides to negotiate in the Saudi capital Riyadh under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
As the fighting has escalated, the US took the decision to evacuate its military personnel from Yemen. Over the past few days it pulled 125 Special Operations advisers from the country.
Iran, by contrast, is increasing its involvement. Three days ago it was reported that Iran shipped 185 tons of military equipment to the Houthis as part of their support for the group.
Other support that Iran has allegedly agreed to supply includes a 200 megawatt power plant and a year’s supply of oil.
Both Iran and the Houthi rebels are ideologically opposed to America. Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, presided over chants of “Death to America” in his Nowruz address to the Iranian people a few days. One of the Houthi rebels policies when implementing their coup was to curb US influence in Yemen.
In a video which has surfaced of one of the mosques hit on Friday, the Houthi aligned Al-Hashoush Mosque, worshippers can be seen repeatedly chanting “Death to America” and “curse the Jews” just before the suicide bomb exploded in the prayer hall.