Yemen hit by deadly car bomb, air strikes as talks fail

Yemen hit by deadly car bomb, air strikes as talks fail

SANAA – Agence France-Presse
Yemen hit by deadly car bomb, air strikes as talks fail

Yemenis walk on June 18 near the wreckage of a cars after five simultaneous bombings targeting Shiite mosques and offices hit the Yemeni capital Sanaa the previous day killing at least 31 people. AFP photo

The explosion in Sanaa, controlled by Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, went off outside the Kobbat al-Mehdi mosque as Shiite Muslims emerged from midday prayers, witnesses and security sources said.

As well as the two dead, another 16  people were wounded, medical officials said.

The blast, which comes as Muslims observe the fasting month of Ramadan, damaged the entrance of the mosque and shattered the windows of a nearby house, an AFP photographer reported.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, SITE Intelligence Group reported, the latest in a series that has targeted Sanaa, which the Houthi rebels seized in September.

Since then they have expanded their control to other parts of Sunni-majority Yemen, including Aden in the south, forcing President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and his government to flee to Saudi Arabia.

On June 17, at least 31 people were killed and dozens wounded in five simultaneous bombings, also claimed by the radical Sunni Muslim jihadist group at Shiite mosques and offices in Sanaa.

The new car attack came hours after Saudi-led warplanes launched 15 strikes against Houthi targets in the port city of Aden.

A pro-government military source said the dawn strikes pounded the northern, eastern and western approaches to Aden, to isolate the Huthis and support forces loyal to Hadi.

"The objective is to close the noose around the Huthi rebels in Aden and assist the Popular Resistance Committees," said the source.

Anti-rebel forces comprising pro-government fighters, Sunni tribes, and southern separatists are referred to as Popular Resistance Committees.

They have been locked in fierce fighting against the Huthis in Aden, which has been devastated by Saudi-led strikes launched in March in support of Hadi.

On June 20, the rebels shelled several neighborhoods of Aden, killing four people and wounding several others, the military source said, a toll confirmed by hospital officials.

The violence came after U.N.'s special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced June 19 in Geneva that talks between the warring sides ended without agreement.

"I won't beat around the bush. There was no kind of agreement reached," the Mauritanian diplomat told reporters.

Yemen's rivals blamed each other for the deadlock.

"I am disappointed. We did everything to make the talks a success but there were too many obstacles, especially the demand for a withdrawal," rebel delegation head Hamza al-Huthi told AFP.

Yemen's exiled foreign minister blamed the lack of progress on the rebel delegation.

"We really came here with a big hope... but unfortunately the Houthi delegation did not allow us really to reach real progress as we expected," said Riad Yassin.

The government is demanding in line with a UN Security Council resolution that the rebels withdraw from the territory they control, but the Houthis have called for an unconditional halt to the air strikes before they consider a pause in fighting.

The rebels are backed by fighters loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced to step down after a year of bloody protests calling for an end to his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

More than 2,600 have been killed in the fighting which has also left 80 percent of the population - 20 million people - in need of urgent humanitarian aid, according to U.N. estimates.

The situation is particularly grave in Aden, where residents have complained of food and water shortages, while medics speak of a rapidly deteriorating health situation and the spread of disease.

A boat laden with supplies, including flour, that was due to dock in Aden this week had to divert course to Hodeida in western Yemen due to the fighting, said Aden Deputy Governor Nayef al-Bakri.

He accused the Houthis of deliberately forcing the vessel, chartered by the UN's World Food Program, to change course because they control the port in Hodeida.