As civil war rages in Yemen, Sanaa mosque blasts kill at least 20

Two different explosions, one inside the Sanaa mosque and another outside, produced the deadly outcome in Yemen's rebel-held capital.

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters
A Shiite rebel, known as a Houthi walks past graffiti painted by rebel activists on the gate of the Saudi embassy in Yemen's capital Sanaa, which has been mired in a violent civil war since last September.

A suicide bomber and a subsequent car bomb killed at least 20 people Wednesday at a mosque in Yemen's rebel-held capital, Sanaa, amid the country's raging civil war, officials said.

The suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the mosque during the evening call to prayers, while the car bomb exploded outside an entrance, they said. Officials said the death toll may rise.

Witnesses said the car bomb exploded while people were carrying out the wounded from inside the mosque, adding to the casualties.

One witness, Hamid Ali, said the explosions targeted the mosque frequented by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Wounded pleaded for help.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast in the capital, though an affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group has carried out similar bombings in Sanaa this year.

Yemen has been mired in violence since Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, swept down from their stronghold in Saada and captured Sanaa last September.

The Houthis are fighting alongside army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as well as southern separatists and local militias. A Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition has been launching airstrikes against the rebels since March.

The conflict has killed over 2,100 civilians, according to the United Nations.

Earlier Wednesday, gunmen shot dead two Yemenis working for the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday as they were traveling from the northern Saada province to the capital, Sanaa, the group said.

Rima Kamal, an ICRC spokeswoman in Sanaa, says the two were killed in Amran province.

Both Amran and Saada are fully controlled by the Houthis.

The UN's humanitarian coordinator for the country, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, and UN humanitarian coordinator Stephen O'Brien both condemned the attack on the Red Cross workers.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense said Tuesday that seven people were wounded when a missile fired from inside Yemen struck three vehicles in al-Tuwal village in the Jizan border province.

Last month, pro-government forces backed by Saudi-led airstrikes drove the rebels out of Yemen's southern port city of Aden after heavy fighting.

In Marib province, more than 20 Houthis were killed in ground clashes with pro-government forces and in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition since Tuesday night, independent security officials and medical officials said. Nine pro-government fighters were also killed in the clashes in the same period, independent security officials and witnesses said.

Pro-government forces, who control the Marib province capital, are preparing for a large attack in the next two days, along with support from the Saudi-led coalition, anti-Houthi officials said. If they successfully clear the province of Houthi forces, the pro-government forces could then proceed to Jawf province, and then to Saada, the Houthis' stronghold in the north.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

In a Wednesday report, Human Rights Watch says both sides committed serious abuses against civilians and fighters in their custody during fighting there, with southern militants killing at least seven Houthi prisoners since March.

"Southern forces that have regained control of Aden should end abuses against prisoners and do all they can to establish law and order in the city," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for the US-based rights group. "The Houthis need to release anyone wrongfully detained and account for everyone they are holding."

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