16 dead in bomb attack on US embassy in Yemen
By Hammoud Mounassar | September 17, 2008
The car was blown up in front of the entrance to the compound and gunmen in a second vehicle then opened fire on embassy security guards with rockets as well as small arms, the witness told AFP.
A group calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen said it carried out the attack.
An embassy employee contacted by telephone inside the mission's compound in the eastern sector of San'a would only say that "there has been a security incident".
An AP reporter at the scene said ambulance cars were rushing to the area and that hundreds of heavily armed security forces were deployed around the embassy. Police kept reporters well away from the immediate vicinity of the embassy, he said.
Regional TV news networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya are reporting a car bomb explosion outside the embassy and an exchange of gunfire between guards and unidentified assailants. A second car carrying gunmen in police uniforms arrived at the scene soon after the car bomb exploded, they said. They immediately began firing at the embassy's guards, they said.
A fire also broke out in one of the embassy's buildings, they reported.
The reports, which could not be independently confirmed, said there were casualties but had no figures.
In April, the US State Department ordered the evacuation of non-essential diplomatic staff following an attack on the embassy claimed by al-Qaeda the previous month, and rocket fire on a Sanaa residential compound used by US oilmen.
A schoolgirl and a policeman were killed and 19 people wounded in the March attack on the compound.
No casualties were reported in the rocket attack on the Hadda residential compound, which al-Qaeda said it carried out to avenge the capture of one its commanders in Yemen, Abdullah al-Rimi.
In recent years, militants have carried out a string of attacks in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and one of the poorest countries on the planet.
In October 2000, al-Qaeda attacked American warship the USS Cole off the southern port of Aden, using a small boat packed with explosives to blow a hole in the side of the vessel, killing 17 American sailors.
Al-Qaeda's local wing which calls itself Jund al-Yemen Brigades has also claimed responsibility for previous attacks on Belgian and Spanish tourists in Yemen.
The country is awash with weapons, with roughly three firearms for every citizen.
It has become a major focus of the US "war against terror" and the US military has a major base across the Bab al-Mandab strait in Djibouti.
White House condemns attack
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House on Wednesday denounced an Islamist militant attack on the US embassy in Yemen's capital Sanaa and offered condolences to the relatives of Yemenis killed in the strike.
The United States condemns this attack," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "This attack is a reminder of the continuing threat we face from violent extremists both at home and abroad."
Islamist militants struck the high-security compound with a car bomb and rockets, leaving 16 dead in the second attack on the high-security compound in six months.
US President George W. Bush was briefed on the attack, and directed no halt in US-Yemen cooperation against extremists.
"We will continue to work with the government of Yemen to increase our counter-terrorism activities to prevent more attacks from taking place," said Johndroe.
The dead were six Yemeni soldiers, four civilians including an Indian and six attackers -- one wearing an explosives belt, the interior ministry said, while a US official in Washington said there were no American casualties.
A group calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened similar strikes against the British, Saudi and United Arab Emirates missions in the Yemeni capital.
Witnesses said a fierce firefight erupted after gunmen raked Yemeni police guarding the heavily fortified embassy compound, before a suicide bomber blew up a car at the entrance, setting off a fireball.
A series of explosions followed as the compound came under rocket and small arms fire, they said, adding that the force of the bomb blast sent pieces of flesh a hundred meters (yards) away.
In March, a schoolgirl and a policeman were killed and 19 people wounded in a hail of mortar fire that US diplomats said targeted the embassy in Yemen, which has been battling a wave of attacks by Al-Qaeda militants for years.
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