Nuclear strike in Yemen? No, but the truth is bad

Gordon Duff's website Veterans Today (a soapbox for vulgar conspiranoia that has nothing to do with veterans' issues) has posted a truly terrifying video, purported to be of the massive explosion on Naqm mountain outside Yemen's capital Sana'a last week. A fiery mushroom cloud unfolds over the mountain as panicked onlookers are heard beseeching God in the foreground. Commentary says the video has been "analyzed by nuclear weapons experts" (unnamed, of course) who determined that it was a "neutron bomb that could only have been an Israeli attack." The Israelis are said to have carried out the attack at Saudi behest. The claim is arbitrary and utterly improbable—the neutron bomb is designed for one purpose: to kill massive numbers through radiation, while leaving property intact. It would make no sense to set it off over a mountain as opposed to in Sana'a itself if the aim was to kill massive numbers—and this is not an overwhelmingly Shi'ite area, so the Saudis would have no reason to do so, even if we ascribe the worst of intentions to them. Furthermore, there have been no reports of massive radiation deaths from the area over a week later. Nonetheless, the "report" (if we may so flatter it) is being posted by Facebook conspiranoids and has been picked up by such likely places as Pravda, Al Manar and (of course) Global Research.

So what actually happened? Saudi semi-official Arab News reported May 22 that Riyadh's warplanes "hit weapons stores on Jabal Naqm," which would be likely to set off such an impressive blast. This is backed up by May 19, which cites Turkey's Anadolu Agency: "A massive explosion rocked Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia-led coalition warplanes bombed a number of weapons depots in the city's Mount Naqm region, eyewitnesses have said… On Monday, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed weapons depots in the same area, causing the most powerful explosions to be seen since coalition airstrikes commenced on March 25."

There are more credible claims from Yemen that are disturbing enough. While the world is focused on the ISIS threat to the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria, Yemen's own archaeological treasures may be coming under attack. Global Voices cites unconfirmed local reports that Saudi air-strikes have targeted the Marib Dam, which lies alongside the remains of the original dam built in the 8th century BCE, considered one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world. Lebanon's Daily Star cites a Reuters report of air-strikes on the historic mountaintop fortress at the city of Taiz which had been seized by the Shi'ite rebels.

And ISIS itself is making its presence felt in Yemen in its usual ghastly way. Reuters on May 22 reported that ISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb attack at a Shi'ite  mosque in Sana'a that day (during Friday prayers, of course) that wounded at least 13 worshippers. 

Deutsche Welle reported May 27 that up to 2,000  have been killed and 8,000 more wounded since the bombing campaign began in March, according to  World Health Organization figures. Half a million people have been displaced.

When things are this bad, it is exploitative to use the Yemenis as fodder for sensationalistic speculation.