Ye­men hit by car bomb, airstrikes as talks fail

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JA­MAL AL- JABIRI AND FAWAZ AL- HAIDARI IN ADEN

A car bomb near a mosque in Ye­men’s cap­i­tal Satur­day killed two peo­ple, as Saudi-led war­planes bom­barded sec­ond city Aden, af­ter peace talks in Geneva ended with­out agree­ment.

The ex­plo­sion in Sanaa, con­trolled by Iran-backed Shi­ite Huthi 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 Mus- lims ob­serve the fast­ing month of Ramadan, dam­aged the en­trance of the mosque and shat­tered the win­dows of a nearby house, an AFP pho­tog­ra­pher re­ported.

The Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, SITE In­tel­li­gence Group re­ported, the latest in a se­ries that has tar­geted Sanaa, which the Huthi 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 Wed­nes­day, at least 31 peo­ple were killed and dozens wound- ed in five si­mul­ta­ne­ous bomb­ings, also claimed by the rad­i­cal Sunni Mus­lim ji­hadist group at Shi­ite mosques and of­fices in Sanaa.

Satur­day’s car at­tack came hours af­ter Saudi-led war­planes launched 15 strikes against Huthi 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 Satur­day the rebels shelled sev­eral neigh­bor­hoods of Aden, killing four peo­ple and wound­ing sev­eral oth­ers, the mil­i­tary source said, a toll con­firmed by hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials.

Peace Talks Dead­locked

The vi­o­lence came af­ter U.N.’s spe­cial en­voy for Ye­men Is­mail Ould Cheikh Ahmed an­nounced Fri­day 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 Huthi del­e­ga­tion did not al­low us re­ally to reach real progress as we ex­pected,” said Riad Yassin.

The gov­ern­ment is de­mand­ing in line with a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion that the rebels with­draw from the ter­ri­tory they con­trol, but the Huthis have called for an un­con­di­tional halt to the airstrikes 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 UN 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 Huthis of de­lib­er­ately forc­ing the ves­sel, char­tered by the U.N.’s World Food Pro­gram, to change course be­cause they con­trol the port in Hodeida.

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