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AOAV condemns Yemen mosque bombings

At least 137 people were killed and over 345 injured when suicide bombers attacked two mosques in Yemen last Friday. The death toll climbed sharply over the weekend as people succumbed to their injuries.

The devastating attack in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital city, marks a dramatic escalation in explosive violence in the country.

The deadly attacks were carried out during Friday prayers as worshippers gathered at the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques used by Shia Houthis.

Witnesses claim that four suicide bombers were involved in the attacks, two at either mosque. The first bomb exploded inside Badr mosque, followed by a second blast near the crowded main gates as people fled the scene.

At the same time two more bombers attacked the al-Hashooh mosque.

At least 13 children were killed in the two attacks. Sanaa hospitals were overwhelmed by the flood of casualties.

The Yemeni branch of the Islamic State (IS) took responsibility for the attacks, although this claim has not yet been confirmed.

A separate attack was carried out the same day by another suicide bomber, who killed two people in a government compound in the Houthi-controlled city of Sadaa.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, issued a statement strongly condemning the attacks  and called on “all Yemeni sides to immediately cease all hostile actions and exercise maximum restraint.”

The White House spokesperson, Josh Earnest also condemned the “brutality of terrorists who perpetrated (…) unprovoked attack on Yemeni citizens who were peacefully engaged in Friday prayers.”

The Houthis are a Shia group who took control over the, predominantly Sunni, capital of Yemen last year.

In September 2014 the Houthis raided Sanaa. Both government and rebel forces fired mortars and rockets in running battles across populated areas of the city, in the worst fighting seen in the capital since 2011.

Yemen has consistently seen high levels of explosive violence. Between 2011-2013, AOAV recorded 1,647 civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons like artillery shells, missiles and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This placed it eighth globally in the list of most-affected countries.

AOAV recorded 32 suicide bombings in Yemen between 2011-2013.

None had anywhere near the impact of Friday’s bombings.

AOAV utterly condemns these brutal and callous attacks against civilians. Mosques, as a place of worship, are given special protection under customary international law. The deliberate targeting of civilians is inexcusable, and is banned by the global laws of war.

The Sanaa mosque attacks have dramatically elevated the threat to civilians from explosive weapons. Previously this year AOAV has only recorded four separate incidents of explosive violence in Yemen, which between them have caused 179 civilian casualties. The scale of destruction caused in these twin attacks heightens fears of a further sectarian divide that will see more and more bombings in towns, villages and cities of Yemen.