Islamist extremists in Yemen have blown up a 16th century mosque housing the shrine of a revered Sufi scholar in the city of Taiz, a local official said Sunday.
Gunmen led by a local Salafi chief known as Abu al-Abbas blew up the mosque of Sheikh Abdulhadi al-Sudi on Friday night, the official told AFP, confirming media reports of the attack.
Yemen’s commission for antiquities and museums condemned the destruction of the site that is considered the most famous in the city of Taiz.
It said the mosque’s white dome was “one of the biggest domes in Yemen and one of the most beautiful religious sites in old Taiz”.
Images of the site before destruction showed a white square-shaped, single-storey structure topped by a large central dome circled by smaller ones.
Sufism is a mystical movement of Islam that is frowned upon by the ultraconservative Salafi brand of Islam.
Taiz city is besieged by Houthi rebels, but the city itself is controlled by a combination of forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and allied militias.
Residents have complained of the growing influence of radical Salafis, who have been attempting to impose their strict interpretation of Islam on locals.
While al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants have been under attack by both government and rebel forces as well as US drones, Salafis operate under the banner of pro-government militias fighting Houthi rebels.