By Leigha Wentz,
International News Assistant Editor
The Islamic Statement issued a statement on Friday, March 20 claiming responsibility for a series of suicide bombings aimed at two mosques within the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
According to the New York Times, the attacks resulted in the deaths of 137 civilians while wounding 357 others in the deadliest assault so far against the Shiite rebels that have rapidly risen to power in Yemen, furthering international fears that the country may devolve into civil war.
As reported by CNN, the bombers pretended to be disabled and hid their explosives beneath casts while attempting to enter the mosques in Sanaa, which were normally frequented by Shiite worshipers such as the Houthi rebels now controlling the city. At least 13 children were reported amongst the dead.
ISIS reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks in two statements issued on websites thought to be affiliated with the group. One of the messages was delivered through an audio recording in which a voice similar to the one that had claimed responsibility for the earlier attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunisia claimed that the bombings had been intended to strike the Houthis.
Survivors of the attacks have reported that the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques were each targeted by two suicide bombers during midday prayers. One of the bombers at the Badr mosque was caught by guards stationed to search worshippers at the gate, though he still managed to detonate his explosives. The second bomber then slipped into the mosque and blew himself up as well amid the crowds, as reported by the official news agency SABA.
“I fell on the ground and when I regained consciousness I found myself lying in a lake of blood,” survivor Ahmed al-Gabri told the Associated Press.
The New York Times reports that the United States has launched an investigation in order to validate whether or not ISIS was responsible for the attacks. Josh Earnest, a White House spokesperson, warned that it is possible that ISIS falsely claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“It does appear that these kinds of claims are often made for a perception that it benefits their propaganda efforts,” he stated.
Later that same day, Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, issued a statement in which the United States condemned the attacks, along with the airstrikes conducted against the internationally-recognized Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the capital for the southern port city of Aden several weeks before.
The Houthi takeover of Sanaa left several Western nations stunned, including the United States, according to CNN. The United States had previously enjoyed a long relationship with Yemen’s leader and worked alongside the regime to target AQAP militants.
ISIS’s possible involvement in the attacks have created a rivalry with al-Qaeda, another Sunni militant group that had previously claimed significant influence in Yemen.
Although BBC reports that both groups denounce Shia Muslims as heretics and had opposed the power of the Houthis in Yemen, IS leaders had previously mocked al-Qaeda for its failure to combat Houthi forces. In addition, al-Qaeda has condemned the Islamic State’s declaration of a new caliphate within the territory of Iraq and Syria and has accused the group of dividing jihadi forces.
Additional reports reported by the BBC claim that al-Qaeda fighters had taken control of the southern Yemeni city of al-Houta on the same day that the mosques were attacked, resulting in the deaths of several security officials.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 24th print edition.
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