/ 2 May 2008

Yemen mosque rocked by bomb blast

About 15 people were killed and over 60 were wounded when a bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded outside a mosque in Yemen’s volatile northern city of Saada on Friday, a security source said.

The blast happened as worshippers, including army officers, were leaving the Salman Mosque after Friday prayers, officials and security sources said.

”It is a large mosque,” the governor of Saada, Motahhar Rashad, told al-Jazeera. He earlier gave the Arab network an initial count of six dead and 35 wounded.

But a Yemeni security source, who declined to be identified, put the death toll higher, at ”around 15”, and said between 60 and 70 people were wounded.

The security source said that the imam of the mosque, Askar Zaayl, was also the office manager of Ali Mohsen, Yemen’s northern military commander who has led the government’s fight against rebels loyal to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi — a member of the Zaydi sect of Shi’ite Islam.

Mohsen was not in the mosque at the time of the blast, though other Yemeni officers were.

It was not known who planted the bomb near the door of the mosque, but the north-western province has been rocked by sporadic violence since a conflict broke out in 2004 between government forces and rebels loyal to Houthi.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes in Saada since the conflict began.

Seven Yemeni troops were killed late on Tuesday in an ambush by the rebels, who often clash with troops of the United States-allied Yemeni government and tribes loyal to it.

Yemeni officials say the rebels want to return to a form of clerical rule prevalent in the country until the 1960s. The rebels say they are defending their villages against what they call government aggression. — Reuters