Yemeni mosques attack: No sign ISIS behind killings, White House says
Attackers targeted mosques frequented by Shia rebels
The White House said Friday there's no indication the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group had any operational link to a string of suicide bombings in Yemen that killed at least 137 people.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. is still investigating the claim of responsibility by the Yemeni branch of ISIS. He said the U.S. is looking to see whether ISIS has a command-and-control structure that would enable it to coordinate the attack.
Suicide bombers attacked a pair of mosques Friday in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, unleashing monstrous blasts that ripped through worshippers in the deadliest assault yet targeting Shia rebels who have taken over large parts of the rapidly fragmenting nation. At least 13 children were among the dead.
Earnest said there's also no clear evidence backing up the ISIS claim of responsibility for another deadly attack in Tunisia this week.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council, said the U.S condemns the attacks and also condemns airstrikes Thursday that targeted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The airstrikes by forces loyal to Yemen's former president missed his palace and Hadi was unharmed.
Meehan said the U.S. is calling on all sides in Yemen to return to political talks to resolve differences. She said all of Yemen's diverse communities must take part in a peaceful democratic process.
Witnesses said that at least two suicide bombers attacked inside the Badr mosque. One walked inside the mosque and detonated his device, causing panic as dozens of worshippers rushed toward the outside gates.
A second suicide bomber then attacked amid the panicked crowds trying to escape.
- Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels announce takeover of country
- U.S., Britain and France close embassies in Yemen due to security concerns
One witness at the al-Hashoosh mosque, located in Sanaa's northern district, said that he was thrown two metres away by the blast.
"The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque," Mohammed al-Ansi told The Associated Press, adding, "blood is running like a river."
'Come back, save the injured!'
Al-Ansi added that many of those who didn't die in the explosion were seriously injured by shattered glass falling from the mosque's windows. He recalled running for the door along with other survivors and hearing one man screaming, "come back, save the injured!"
The Shia TV network aired footage from inside al-Hashoosh mosque, where screaming volunteers were using bloodied blankets to carry away victims. One of the dead included a small child. Corpses were lined up on the mosque floor and carried away in pick-up trucks.
The attacks come a day after intense gun battles in the southern city of Aden, between rival troops loyal to Yemen's former and current president, left 13 dead and forced closure of the city's international airport.
The Shia rebels, known as Houthis, swept down from their northern strongholds and seized the capital in September. Allied with ousted former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, they now control at least nine of Yemen's 21 provinces. Earlier this year they put Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the western-backed president, under house arrest. Hadi has since fled to the southern city of Aden, where he established a temporary capital and maintains he is still the legitimate president.