80 soldiers killed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen

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A fighter loyal to Yemen’s Huthi rebels holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle showing a picture of other slain comrades as he stands guard during a rally commemorating the Shiite Muslim religious holiday of Ashura in the capital Sanaa on September 10, 2019. – Ashura is commemorated by Shiite Muslims worldwide and marks the climax of mourning rituals in the Islamic month of Muharram for the 7th century killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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(CNN) — At least 80 Yemeni soldiers attending prayers at a mosque were killed and 130 others injured in ballistic missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen reported Sunday.

The attack happened in the province of Marib on Saturday at a mosque at a military camp, in what Yemen’s President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi condemned as a “heinous” and “cowardly terrorist operation committed by the Houthis.”

Yemen has been embroiled in a yearslong civil war that has pitted a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Yemen’s Ministry of Defense said the attack was “to avenge the killing of the Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani,” who died in a US drone strike in Iraq on January 3. The ministry offered no evidence to show how it might know the rebels’ motive.

The attack does come, however, as several nations in the Middle East ready themselves for retaliatory attacks by Iranian-backed militias.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said “the armed forces will remain the solid rock that breaks the ambitions” of Iran’s goal of destabilizing security in Yemen and the wider region, according to a statement carried by Yemeni state news agency Saba.

The Houthis did not make any immediate claim of responsibility.

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