The fourth of its kind in Amran governorateGunman kills 7 worshipers, wounds 10 others at Amran mosque [Archives:2008/1160/Front Page]

May 2 2008

By: Saddam Al-Ashmori
For The Yemen Times

AMRAN, May 31 ) At least seven men were killed and 10 others injured when a gunman, believed to be mentally ill, fired into a mosque full of worshipers during Friday prayers in Amran's Quhal area.

An Amran security official said 25-year-old Abdulalh Saleh Zaid broke into the village's mosque while worshipers where performing Friday prayers and fired more than 90 live rounds from a Kalashnikov rifle.

The shooting rampage left brothers Bilal and Mohammed Salem Al-Quhali, ages 20 and 19, Abdullah Ahmad Al-Quhali, 25, Sadeq Mohammed Al-Quhali, 30, Abdulbasit Nasser Al-Quhali, 30, and Abdulbasit Al-Faqeeh dead.

According to the security source, another worshiper died of his injuries at an Amran hospital, thereby bringing to seven the death toll from the attack. More than 10 other individuals were injured, some seriously, and they are receiving treatment at Sana'a hospitals.

“The governorate's security department is investigating the attacker, who is from the same village where the shooting occurred. Initial investigations reveal that he had disputes with some villagers over farmland and that he is mentally ill,” the security source went on to say, adding, “This incident has nothing to do with the fighting in Sa'ada between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists.”

Another security official affirmed that Zaid walked into the mosque during the weekly sermon and opened fire with his assault rifle; however, he was quickly taken into custody, noted the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The official described the gunman as “deranged,” but tribal leader, who requested not to be identified for fear of government reprisals, dismiss the claim of mental illness, noting that Zaid was a driver for a local legislator.

As one area resident recounted, “He opened fire indiscriminately because two of his own relatives were even among the dead.”

The incident is the fourth of its kind in Amran governorate where 33 worshipers were burned inside a mosque while performing Friday prayers in another area of the governorate. The attackers closed the doors of the mosque in Al-Saudah area and then ignited kerosene.

Another gunman shot dead three worshipers at an Amran mosque in 2001, while a grenade was detonated in 2003 amid worshipers in Amran's Kharif area, killing one and injuring 50 others.

In recent weeks, the escalating war between Houthi loyalists and Yemeni army troops has spread south to Amran and even to the suburbs of the capital, where government bombing raids can be heard and armored vehicles now roam the streets. However, there's no evidence that Friday's mosque attack was related to this fighting.

Attacks on civilians have been rare in the war between the government and Houthi supporters, which began in 2004 in the remote mountainous governorate of Sa'ada, located north of Sana'a near the Saudi border.

However, on May 2, a bomb rigged to a motorcycle exploded outside another mosque in northern Sa'ada city, killing at least 12 worshipers. Houthis denied government accusations that they had planned the attack, but it seems to have spurred more fighting between the two sides.

Following Friday's attack, Yemeni security officials said they had captured the killer, identifying him as 25-year-old local resident Abdullah Saleh Zaid

Local tribal leader Mujahid Al-Kuhali said the attack appeared to be related to a personal dispute.

Because Yemen is awash in weapons, violence is relatively common in tribal areas like Amran, where the central government has little control.

Also on Friday, two Katyusha rockets were fired at an oil installation in the southern port of Aden, officials said, though there was no word of casualties.