Twin blasts rock Yemeni capital

Two car bombs exploded in a customs compound near the Italian embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa Wednesday as a raid on rebels in the countryside killed at least seven soldiers, according to Yemeni officials.


Two car bombs exploded on Wednesday inside the compound of customs headquarters, located next to the Italian embassy in Sanaa, as at least seven soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush in the countryside, officials said.

There were no casualties in the blasts, which happened shortly before offices were due to open in a city that has been plagued by attacks in recent weeks.

The officer, attached to the interior ministry, said bombs had been placed in two cars parked inside the compound of the customs offices and a few dozen metres (yards) from the wall separating it from the embassy.

"The explosions did result in any victims, nor in damage to the customs headquarters," he said.

In Rome, the foreign ministry said it had not received any information suggesting the embassy had been targeted, and Italian news agency Ansa said it appeared as if the target was the customs offices.

In addition to official cars that park there, the compound is also used to store vehicles that have been confiscated by customs.

Security forces immediately cordoned off the sector around the site of the blast in Al-Safia district, which is a residential and a business neighbourhood and which also houses the finance ministry.

The cordon was lifted some two hours after the explosions, and customs officials able to reach their offices.

On April 8, the US embassy in the Yemeni capital announced that it was evacuating all non-essential personnel from the country and a series of recent attacks.

Two days earlier, three rockets had been fired at villas where US oil experts live in Sanaa. No casualties were reported in the attack which was claimed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

In March, Al-Qaeda targeted the US embassy in Sanaa in an attack in which a schoolgirl and a policeman were killed and 19 people were wounded.

Militants have carried out several attacks in recent years in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of the terror network's chief Osama bin Laden and one of the poorest countries in the planet.

In October 2000 it targeted American warship the USS Cole off the southern oport of Aden, using a small boat packed with explosives to blow a hole in the side of the vessel, killing 17 American sailors.

Yemen has also been shaken by a Shiite insurgency in its mountainous northwest in which thousands of people have died since 2004.

On Tuesday night, seven soldiers were killed and 20 wounded when a convoy of three troop transports was ambushed by rebels in mountainous Saada province, northwest of the capital, a local official said.

The clashes came as a team of Qatari mediators return to Sanaa on Thursday in a fresh bid to help the government and insurgents reach a deal over the implementation of a peace accord agreed in June 2007.

Huthi rebels in the north are fighting to restore the Zaidi imamate, overthrown in a 1962 republican coup in Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries.


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