x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Seven die as Yemen air strike targets wrong mosque

A botched air strike against suspected Al Qaeda-linked militants targeted the wrong mosque in the southern province of Abyan, Yemeni officials said.

SANAA // At least seven civilians were killed and three others wounded yesterday in a botched air strike against suspected Al Qaeda-linked militants that targeted the wrong mosque in the southern province of Abyan, Yemeni officials said.

The mosque is located in central Jaar, a city that has been under the control of Ansar Al Sharia militants since May. The mistake caused anger with residents in a part of the country the government has been unable to control for months.

Walid Abdulhabib, a resident, told The National: "People are very angry about the civilian casualties and said how come the government strikes a mosque which is always preaching against the militants and its preacher has demanded the militants in his sermons to leave the city to avoid such strikes."

Security officials said the strike was meant to target Al Hamza mosque, which militants had been using as a base and weapons depot.

The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media.

Dozens of militants were killed and wounded in other strikes on public institutions occupied by militants in Jaar, according to security officials and Mr Abdulhabib.

Mr Abdulhabib said three strikes hit Al Razi hospital and claimed the hospital had been closed to civilians for the past two months, with doctors only treating militants.

"The hospital has been heavily damaged in three strikes. Dozens of militants have been killed and wounded," Mr Abdulhabib told The National.

City officials said other strikes targeted a secondary school a few hundred metres away from the hospital and a police station. Other strikes also hit the militants' strongholds in the coastal city of Shaqra.

Mr Abdulhabib said the mosque attack has spread fear among the civilians.

In a similar incident in May, at least 30 pro-government tribal fighters were killed and dozens were wounded when air strikes missed their targets in the outskirts of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, which the militants seized in May.

Fighting in Abyan has displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

Elsewhere in the province yesterday, tribesmen captured a teenage suicide bomber in Lawdar. Local officials said the suicide bomber, 15, was captured in the market with an explosive belt strapped around his waist and two other hand grenades.

The capture came two days after a suicide bomber targeted a military check point in Aden, killing seven soldiers.

The British ambassador to Yemen, Jonathan Wilks, said yesterday the United Kingdom was increasingly concerned about rising political tensions in Yemen. "The priority now should be for all sides to be more active in negotiating a political settlement based on the [Gulf Cooperation Council] initiative and the roadmap for implementation of political transition developed by UN envoy Jamal Benomar," Mr Wilks said in a statement yesterday on the embassy website.

malqadhi@thenational.ae