At least 137 people were killed in multiple suicide bombing attacks that targeted two separate mosques in Yemen’s capital Sanaa during Friday prayers. The bombings injured more than 300 people.
The attacks hit the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques that were attended primarily by supporters of the Houthis, a Shi’ite Muslim group that seized control of the capital last year.
The Houthi-funded Al-Masirah TV reported the latest causality figures, which have been rising throughout the course of the day. AFP news agency reported the death toll at 142.
Islamic State took responsibility for the attack. In a statement, the group said it carried out a “blessed operation” against the “dens of the Shiites.”
At least four suicide bombers struck the mosques, which were packed with worshippers at the time. Al Jazeera quoted sources as saying two blasts targeted the Badr mosque killing the Imam of the mosque as well as a leading Houthi religious leader, Al-Murtada bin Zayd al-Muhatwari.
One witness described the bloody scene to the Associated Press. “The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque,” Mohammed al-Ansi said. “Blood is running like a river,” he said.
Another witness described what he heard to Reuters. “I was going to pray at the mosque then heard the first explosion, and a second later I heard another one,” the witness said.
Yemen has been embroiled in turmoil for several months. The Houthis, backed by Iran, pushed out the internationaly recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi last September. The country is currently divided between the Houthis in the north and President Hadi, who fled to Aden last month after he escaped house arrest in Sanaa, in the south.
Fighting between forces loyal to President Hadi and those supporting his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh rocked Aden on Thursday. It was reported that pro-Houthi fighter jets targeted Hadi’s palace in the city the same day, forcing the U.N.-backed president to flee. Reports say unidentified warplanes attacked the palace in Aden for a second day on Friday.