Car bombs hit three mosques and the political headquarters of Yemen’s dominant Houthi group on Wednesday, killing and wounding around 50 people, security officials said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility but the attack was similar to a previous one claimed by Islamic State, the militant group that has become active in Yemen in recent months as the country has descended into a sectarian-tinged civil war.
“Four car bombs targeted the political bureau of Ansarullah, the Hashush mosque in the Jiraf district, the Kibsi mosque in the Zira district, and the Qubat al-Khadra mosque, causing the martyrdom and injury of dozens,” a security source asked for anonymity.
The apparent militant attack is the most serious in Yemen since suicide bombers killed at least 137 worshippers and wounded hundreds during Friday prayers at two mosques in Sanaa on March 20, attacks claimed by Islamic State.
The Houthis, a political movement hailing from the Zaydi sect of Shi’ite Islam, seized Sanaa in September and spread southward in a push they have described as a revolution against Sunni militants and corrupt government officials.
It was not immediately possible to obtain a more detailed breakdown of the numbers of people killed and wounded.
Video footage that purports to be from the scene of one of the explosions, outside the Green Dome Mosque in Hayel Street, shows fire spreading to nearby buildings after the huge blast.
A separate clip shows bystanders rushing to the site of the blasts to try and rescue the wounded.
The mosques that were targeted were frequented by Houthi supporters, according to Yemeni journalist Nasser Arabyee.
The mosques are in residential areas of the city populated by civilians.
Ahmed Sayaghi, a Yemeni whose house is 200m from the site of the Green Dome mosque bombing, told Middle East Eye that he heard a “huge” explosion from where he was standing at a hospital nearly a kilometre from the blast site.
“The blast happened exactly at the time of sundown prayers. As is the case after every explosion, huge crowds of people gathered at the site of the bombing.
“I am extremely scared of more explosions happening – I pass by this street several times a day. We never expected something like this to happen where we live.”
Hisham al-Omeisy, a Yemeni analyst based in the south of Sanaa, reported hearing ambulances speeding towards the site of the blasts in the north of the capital, raising fears of a high number of casualties.
Islamic State (IS) in Yemen, which recently announced that it has active branches in Yemen, put out an official statement just over an hour after the attacks claiming responsibility for them.
In the statement, IS said the attacks had been carried out “as revenge for Muslims against the Rafidi Houthis,” using a derogatory term for Shiite Muslims.
Two previous similar attacks involving bombs placed outside mosques have later been claimed by IS.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered one of the deadliest arms of the global network, has mounted deadly attacks on the Yemeni state for over a decade.
But AQAP has mostly held off on hitting places of worship, and Islamic State in Yemen first emerged publicly in Yemen with the coordinated mosque attacks this year.