Yemen hit by deadly car bomb, air strikes as talks fail

Yemen hit by deadly car bomb, air strikes as talks fail
Yemeni children walk on June 18, 2015 near the wreckage of a car after five simultaneous bombings targeting Shiite mosques and offices hit the Yemeni capital Sanaa the previous day killing at least 31 people.
PHOTO: AFP

SANAA - A car blast near a mosque in Yemen's capital Saturday killed at least two people and Saudi-led warplanes bombarded second city Aden, after peace talks in Geneva ended without agreement.

The explosion in Sanaa, which is under the control of 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 six people were wounded in the blast, according to medical officials.

The bombing, which comes as Muslims observe the holy fasting month of Ramadan, caused damage to the entrance of the mosque and shattered the windows of a nearby house, an AFP photographer reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series that has targeted Sanaa, which the Huthi rebels seized in September last year.

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 wounded in five simultaneous bombings claimed by the Islamic State group at Shiite mosques and offices in Sanaa.

Saturday's car bomb 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, a port city devastated also by Saudi-led strikes which have been launched in March in support of Hadi.

OnSaturday the rebels shelled several neighbourhoods 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 hours after the UN'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 in the Swiss city.

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 are demanding that the rebels must withdraw from the territory they control, but the Huthis have called for an unconditional halt to the air strikes 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 tragic 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, Aden's deputy governor Nayef al-Bakri said.

He accused the Huthis of deliberately forcing the vessel, chartered by the UN's World Food Programme, to change course to Hodeida because they control the port there.

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