Yemen bombings bring country closer to civil war

BBC News reports: Islamic State (IS) say its militants carried out suicide bombings on two mosques in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, which killed at least 137 people.

The attacks are the first claimed by IS – a Sunni group – since it set up a branch in Yemen in November.

Both mosques were used mainly by supporters of the Zaidi Shia-led Houthi rebel movement, which controls Sanaa. [Continue reading…]

The Toronto Star reports: Many fear the bombings Friday, coupled with Thursday’s battle between rival political factions for control of the airport in the southern city of Aden, will spark a series of retaliatory attacks.

Perhaps the grimmest indicator of how dire the situation has become is the fact that the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) quickly distanced itself from Friday’s suicide bombings.

AQAP’s leadership has in the past denounced the viciousness of the Islamic State’s tactics and the targeting of Muslims. Which means, in crude counterterrorism terms, that AQAP, once the world’s most feared Al Qaeda group, is now perceived as the more principled terrorists.

Washington-based analyst Sama’a Al-Hamdani said while the scale of the attack was unprecedented, it fits a pattern of escalating violence in Yemen.

“Everyone is expecting that someone will light a match and then an explosion will happen, but in Yemen is it more like a snowball effect,” she said in an interview Friday.

“It’s slow but consistent, in the same direction.”

This week marked the four-year anniversary of a seminal event that changed Yemen’s history — a day known locally as the “Day of Dignity.”

On March 18, 2011, forces loyal to then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh shot at unarmed demonstrators marching in the streets during the Arab Spring protests, killing 40. The snipers fired from rooftops and from behind a wall that Saleh’s forces had constructed days earlier near the demonstrators’ main camp, Change Square.

That day marked the beginning of the end for Saleh, who was forced to resign in 2012.

But Saleh never really went away as a deal brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council, United States and Saudi Arabia, which paved the way for his successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, also granted him immunity from legal action.

Thursday’s battle for Aden airport was indicative of Saleh’s enduring power, as the clash pitted forces loyal to him against Hadi.

The Associated Press journalist Hamza Hendawi was at the airport on a flight bound for Cairo when the fighting broke out. “We were caught in what would become an hours-long battle, part of the bigger conflict tearing apart this chaotic, impoverished nation,” Hendawi wrote. [Continue reading…]

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