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Ahmed Youssef tells Associated Press attacks were targeting al-Qaida militants in neighbouring Saada province
Missile attack on mosque and religious school kills and injures 29 Yemeni civilians, says minister
A missile attack on a mosque and religious school in the south of Yemen has killed at least 29 civilians and injured dozens more, the interior minister has said.
Residents say at least eight children were among the dead, while dozens more were injured in the strikes in the Saada governorate near the Saudi border.
Ahmed Youssef told Associated Press that the casualties were killed when a “missile hit a mosque and religious school on Friday”.
He added that the attacks “aimed at targeting al-Qaida militants and were launched from neighbouring al-Hado district, south of Saada”.
Youssef said the missiles had hit the local administrative headquarters, leaving heavy damage.
A security official said the missiles struck the capital of the province – scene of fierce fighting between the military and al-Qaida.
Medics at hospitals in the province confirmed the toll.
Yemen’s armed forces have been trying to capture territory from al-Qaida in the country, which has long used it as a base to plot and carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states.
Defence ministry officials said on Friday that air raids had killed dozens of suspected al-Qaida militants in Saada on Thursday night.
They added that a nearby Saudi-led coalition backed by Yemeni forces had targeted militant hideouts as well as a telecommunications tower in an air strike on Jabal al-Shams, an area close to the Saudi border.
US military and CIA officials have identified the Yemeni al-Qaida branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as a priority target.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has carried out a series of mass casualty attacks in the US, including a terrorist bombing on a US military base in Saudi Arabia in 2000 and one on a Paris-bound airliner three years later, which killed nearly 300 people.
In September 2011, AQAP claimed responsibility for the bomb plot targeting an airliner over the Atlantic Ocean.
That same month, members of AQAP bombed a US consulate in Yemen and failed to blow up a second aircraft.
The Saudis say they killed about 2,000 militants in the campaign that escalated in March 2014.
In September, the coalition carried out airstrikes on areas held by armed opposition in the country’s north and around the city of Jaar, killing hundreds.
“These strikes were aimed at militants who are taking refuge in the area after clashes between armed groups and the Yemeni army in the city of Jaar in Al-Mahfad district,” the military officials said.
Security forces also killed 30 militants in an overnight attack on two al-Qaida hideouts in Razeh district on the Red Sea coast, the officials said.
“The raids were undertaken after the militants were spotted and tracked in a particular area as their radio signals were being tracked,” one official said.