x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Suicide bomber hits Shiite convoy in Yemen, killing 17

A suicide car bomber struck a convoy of Yemeni Shiites on their way to a religious ceremony on Wednesday, killing 17 and wounding more than 15 people, a security official said.

SANA'A // A suicide car bomber struck a convoy of Yemeni Shiites on their way to a religious ceremony on Wednesday, killing 17 and wounding more than 15 people, a security official said.

The official said authorities suspect al-Qaida was behind the attack, which occurred on a road in the al-Jawf province, 109 miles (175 kilometers) east of the capital, Sanaa.

If confirmed, it would be the first reported al-Qaida attack on Yemeni Shiites. The Sunni-led terror network, known for large-scale suicide bombings, regularly attacks Shiites in Iraq.

The Yemeni official said those attacked in al-Jawf were supporters of Shiite Hawthi rebels who have waged an on-and-off uprising against the government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

A spokesman for the Hawthis confirmed the casualties and added that the rebels also suspected al-Qaida in the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

The attack comes two months after al-Qaida accused the Hawthis of nabbing two of its members and handing them over to the security chief of Saada province.

Later in September, al-Qaida announced it kidnapped Saada's deputy security chief, Col. Ali Mohammed Salah, and demanded the government release the two members, Hussein al-Tais and Mashour al-Ahdal. It claimed Salah had confessed to al-Qaida that the two militants were seized by the Hawthis.

Since January 2009, when al-Qaida's battered Saudi and Yemeni branches merged to form Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group has become increasingly emboldened, directing attacks in the capital and across the countryside against officials and foreigners.

Apart from the dominating al-Qaida threat, Yemen's weak central government has also struggled with a separatist movement in the south and the Hawthi rebels in the north. Occasional skirmishes between government troops and the Shiite rebels have raised concerns the six-year-old conflict that nearly turned into a regional war could be reignited.