Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi pledged Saturday to fight Iran's influence in his war-torn country, saying the people of Yemen will “not accept the Iranian scenario.”
In a televised speech, Hadi accused Shiite Huthi militia of importing Tehran's ideology and said he would ensure that “the Yemeni republic flag will fly on the Marran mountain in Saada (the northern Houthi stronghold), instead of the Iranian flag.”
“The Iranian twelver (Shiism) pattern that has been agreed upon between the Houthis and those who support them will not be accepted by Yemenis, whether Zaidi (Shiites) or Shafite (Sunnis),” he added in statements carried by Agence France-Presse.
Hadi also called on all parties in Yemen to attend talks in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh to resolve the country's political crisis and demanded the Houthi militia to abandon its control of government ministries in Sanaa.
The Yemeni leader’s remarks were made during his first televised speech since fleeing the capital for Aden after escaping house arrest last month.
He described the Houthis as coup plotters, and said his flight to Aden had been intended to preserve Yemeni unity.
His speech comes a day after a series of suicide bombings targeted mosques attended by Houthi rebels on Friday.
The embattled president condemned the attacks, which left at least 142 people and 351 wounded, saying they were aimed at dragging the country into “chaos, violence and internal fighting.”
In a letter released by his office to the families of the victims, Hadi said: “Such heinous attacks could only be done by the enemies of life.”
“Shiite extremism, represented by the armed Houthi militia, and Sunni extremism, represented by Al-Qaeda, are two sides of the same coin, who do not wish good and stability for Yemen and its people,” Hadi wrote.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks in the capital Sanaa and the Houthi militia’s northern stronghold of Saada.
The killings were the first claimed by ISIS in Yemen and represent a strong show of force by the group in a country where rival Al-Qaeda is the most prominent jihadist organization.
Al-Qaeda, however, swiftly distanced itself from Friday’s bombings, insisting it does not target mosques.
Meanwhile, the White House condemned as “unconscionable” the attacks.
“This unconscionable attack on Muslim worshipers during Friday prayers only further highlights the depth of the terrorists’ depravity and the threat they pose to the people of Yemen, the region and the world,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.
Meehan urged all Yemenis to be unified in their fight against terror.
“We urge all Yemeni parties to halt unilateral and offensive military actions,” Meehan said in condemning those assaults on Yemen’s “legitimate government” and calling for renewed political dialogue.
Describing the attacks in Sanaa as unprovoked, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said “we deplore the brutality of the terrorists who perpetrated today’s unprovoked attack on Yemeni citizens, who were peacefully engaged in Friday prayers.”
The White House also said there was no “clear operational” link between Yemeni extremists and ISIS.
“We cannot at this point confirm the veracity of the claim,” it said, referring to ISIS.
“We have seen these kinds of claims in the past from other extremist groups,” Earnest said, adding that claims of allegiance to ISIS are often made for propaganda purposes.
[With AFP and Reuters]