By James Rosen
Yemeni diplomats tell Fox News they believe today’s quadruple suicide bombings at two mosques in Yemen were likely the work of ISIS and not Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The sources cited not only the claim of responsibility formally issued by ISIS-affiliated militants and the denial of responsibility formally issued by AQAP, but the fact that historically, AQAP has sought, in its attacks, to limit civilian casualties – and the extraordinary civilian death toll of today’s attacks, including scores of children, points to a different organization. Yemeni officials expect the death toll to rise dramatically overnight, and to approach 150.
As for even more recent AP bulletins reporting that AQAP has seized control of the Southern city of al-Houta, capital of the Lahj province, sources said the proliferation of tribesmen in that area – with some loyal to deposed President Hadi, others secessionist, still others pro-AQAP – makes it very difficult to discern who is doing what.
The Shi’ite Houthi rebels, long based in the north, have no real presence in the south. They seized control of the capital Sanaa in September and effectively run it today. They have seized large numbers of weapons in the country from various armories and depots. The U.S. for its part, only maintains communications with Hadi. Iran has amped up its political support of the Houthis in recent weeks, pledging a massive aid package including the provision of fuel derivatives, power plants, maintenance help, the rehabilitation of deteriorating ports, etc.
The capital is now largely empty of feign diplomats, save for a handful of Arab nations, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians.
The next critical juncture is a set of mediation talks between Hadi loyalists, the Houthis and other parties, set to be held in April in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Until then, analysts foresee a continued, albeit low-intensity conflict, with regional lines being drawn across the country.
The sources described today’s bombings as the worst mass-casualty attack on civilian life in modern memory.