A pair of car bombs detonated in central Yemen this week took the lives of 31 people, of whom 20 were schoolgirls.
The bombing, which took place in the city of Radaa, was suspected to have been a mismanaged attempt to kill Houthi militants in the area by opposing Al-Qaeda fighters.
While one of the car bombs succeeded in detonating in a Houthi rebel checkpoint, the other went off its trajectory and hit a passing school bus carrying female elementary school students home. Eleven Houthi fighters and civilians were also identified among the other victims by an Interior Ministry official.
Pro-Houthi activist Osama Sari described the scene:
“The suicide car bombs were supposed to directly hit the Houthi camp. When they failed to reach the core target, many innocent children lost their lives.”
All the killed children were below the age of 12.
Eyewitnesses have asserted the death toll of Houthi soldiers to be over 18. A dozen others were also claimed to have been injured, six of whom were critically wounded.
The bombing took place targeting a Houthi camp located outside the residence of Shiite Houthi leader Abdullah Idris. The Houthi forces blamed the attack on Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), claiming that the AQAP have previously threatened the rebels.
Radaa has become a heavy conflict zone due to fighting between its Shia and Sunni populations, ever since the Houthis have occupied certain territories in it since October. The city initially was an Al Qaeda fort, till it was taken over by Houthi rebels after several clashes in the area which killed many units from both sides. The area has since been heavily targeted by Sunni Muslim Al Qaeda forces who have lashed out at Yemen’s new powerbrokers, taking hundreds of Houthi lives every day.
Being firm followers of the Zaidi sect of Islam, the Houthi forces are categorized as Shiite Muslims by the Al Qaeda, whose military chief Qassem al-Rimi has warned to prepare “for horrors that will make the hair of children turn white”. The region is no alien to sectarian friction, being severely under threat of attack by Islamic State militants.
The UN has expressed its condolences to the families of the children killed, and has condemned the ongoing violence in Yemen. A statement was released highlighting how education was a right to every child, which must not be pushed aside for the support of political violence:
“The attack on the schoolchildren on Tuesday in Yemen and other countries aroused a great sadness and must not be allowed to continue”
The U.S has already initiated an airstrike campaign in an attempt to cripple the Islamic State, which still holds significant territory within Iraq and Syria.