At least thirty-one individuals, including twenty schoolgirls, were killed Tuesday by two simultaneous car bombs planted by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Radaa, Yemen.
The car bomb attacks were reportedly executed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and meant to target rival Houthi rebels. Instead, the majority of those killed were children under the age of twelve, according to pro-Houthi activist Osama Sari. According to reports, the second car bomb missed its target and, instead, blew up next to a school bus that was bringing children home from school.
“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,” Sari told CNN.
AQAP has yet to claim responsibility for the attack, but a security source told AFP that it “bore the hallmarks” of al-Qaeda.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry strongly condemned the bombing, calling it a “cowardly terrorist attack on the home of a citizen and a school bus.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki released a statement regarding Tuesday’s attack. “The United States strongly condemns yesterday’s bomb attack in Radaa, Yemen, which killed dozens, including at least 15 girls who were riding in their school bus,” she said, adding:
We extend our condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the terrorist attack. The Yemeni people have lived with senseless violence for far too long and the blatant disregard for the lives of Yemeni civilians … underscores the brutality and viciousness of those seeking to block the path to peace and reconciliation.
Psaki also stated, “The United States remains firmly committed to our bilateral partnership with Yemen to counter the shared threat posed by AQAP.”
The city of Radaa remains hotly contested between al-Qaeda jihadis and Iran-backed Houthi insurgents. The Houthis seized Radaa in October after violent clashes that resulted in the deaths of hundreds on both sides. After AQAP lost positioning in Radaa, its leader released a chilling message, stating, “To the Houthis we say: brace yourselves for horrors that will make the hair of children turn white.”