Suicide Attack Strikes Shiites in Yemenhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/25/world/middleeast/25yemen.html?_r=1&ref=world
SANA, Yemen — A suicide car bomb ripped through a convoy of civilians traveling to a Shiite ceremony in northwestern Yemen on Wednesday, killing 17 members of the Houthi clan and leaving 5 wounded, officials said.
Suspicions fell on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the local affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. But if Al Qaeda was responsible, it would be the first act of violence between two groups that have long fought the government separately.
The government was quick to condemn the attack. “These acts contradict the teachings of Islam and its values and traditions as well as those of the Yemeni society,” the Higher Security Committee of Yemen said in a statement.
The families of the victims took the bodies for burial, impeding the investigation, said Hussein Hazem, the governor of Al Jawf Province. The attack took place in Al Jawf, about 100 miles northeast of the capital, Sana.
Among the dead was a leading 80-year-old Shiite scholar, Hamod Derhim al-Ezzi, according to spokesmen for the Houthis, who control much of the north.
Mr. Hazem, the local governor, said that the official investigation had yet to begin and that he would not guess about the origins of the attack.
But Sheik Ali Saif, a tribal leader who helped with rescue efforts after the attack, said he suspected that the Qaeda branch was retaliating, saying that the Houthis had captured some Qaeda members and handed them over to the Yemeni authorities several weeks ago.
Murad al-Azzany, a professor of linguistics at Sana University who has studied Islamic groups, said the attack resembled others by Al Qaeda. “This is a critical development in Yemen’s political and security context, where a fight just erupted between the two ideological and traditional opponents — Al Qaeda and Shiites,” Mr. Azzany said.
The Houthi rebels have fought with the government on and off since 2004, but the two sides agreed to a cease-fire in February, seemingly removing a major source of instability for Yemen, a desperately poor country where the government has long had limited authority outside the major cities. Besides the Houthis in the north and the Qaeda group, the central government faces a strong secessionist movement in the south.
The government is under sharply increased pressure from the United States and Europe to roust the local Qaeda group after a series of attacks or attempted attacks. In the most recent of these, two powerful bombs hidden in air cargo from Yemen were intercepted last month.
The group, which is believed to have close ties with Al Qaeda’s central leadership in Pakistan, later bragged about the plot’s low cost and disruptive effect on the international air cargo system.