In an escalation of the ongoing war in Yemen, at least 116 soldiers of the Saudi, US-backed government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, had died on Saturday (Jan. 18).
In one of the bloodiest assaults since the beginning of the civil war, ballistic missiles ripped through the mosque at a military training camp in the central province of Marib.
While the government blamed the Houthi movement, which seized the capital, Sana'a, six years ago, none of the many groups fighting in Yemen has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Ballistic missiles hit a mosque at al-Estiqbal military camp in the central province of Ma'rib, where soldiers had gathered for evening prayers.
Yemen's civil war escalated in 2015 when President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled to neighboring Saudi Arabia and in March 2015 a Saudi-led coalition launched operation against the Houthi rebels who are said to be supported by Iran.
Since then the conflict has morphed into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, killing an estimated 100,000 people and leaving 80% of the population - about 24 million people - dependent on aid to survive.
The escalation comes after the UN special representative for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, last week hailed a fall in violence across the country despite the heightened tensions between the US and Iran after the killing of the Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, on January 3.
Tellingly, on the same day that a drone strike killed Suleimani in Baghdad, the US tried, but failed, to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior Iranian commander who was in Yemen.
The Washington Post reported on January 10 that the US tried to assassinate him on the same day it killed the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
Last year, the US issued an appeal for information about Shahlai and his activities in the Yemen. In December, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook announced that the US Department of State was offering a $15 million reward for information about Shahlai's whereabouts or his financial activities, networks and associates in Yemen and the region.
Not surprisingly, Suleimani's death prompted demonstrations against the US in Sana'a and promises of revenge from the Houthi leadership.
The US is not an innocent bystander in Yemen
"The US is not an innocent bystander in Yemen." This was the title of the article by Steven A. Cook of the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations which provides a deep insight into the Yemen civil war. Cook wrote in September 2018:
"".the war that has engulfed the country since 2014 has killed and injured about 15,000 people, about 3 million people have been internally displaced, and more than 190,000 Yemenis have become refugees in nearby countries such as Djibouti and Somalia, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There are currently 8.4 million Yemenis at risk of famine. As in so many conflicts, the hardest hit have been children, an estimated 130 of whom die every day due to malnutrition and disease, especially cholera.
"The United States finds itself in the midst of this tragedy, but it is hardly an innocent bystander. Yemen has regularly been the target of U.S. drone strikes over the last 16 years. Those operations have killed a fair number of terrorists, but there have also been plenty of mistakes that have obliterated families, maimed people attending weddings, and blown up guys in pickup trucks who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
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