Suicide attack targets Yemen defence ministry

Photo: AFP

A suicide bomber and several gunmen launched an attack on the Yemeni defence ministry in the capital Sanaa on Thursday, killing at least 52 people and wounding at least 167 others, government sources said.


At least 52 people have been killed in an attack on the ministry of defence and another 167 people were injured, Yemen's Higher Security Committee said Thursday.

Many of the victims were doctors and nurses working at a military hospital inside the compound. Two Germans, two Vietnamese, two Filipinos and one Indian were among those killed, the security commission said. Soldiers and civilians were also among the dead.

The US military increased its regional alert status following the attack, a senior US defence official said.

In the most serious attack in the country in the past 18 months, a car laden with explosives first rammed the sprawling complex before gunmen stormed the compound, witnesses said.

"A car bomb driven by a suicide bomber forced its way into the western entrance of the ministry complex," a security official told AFP.

"It was followed by another car whose occupants opened fire at the complex of buildings," he said.

The ministry said gunmen had occupied the Defence Hospital within the complex after the explosion, but security forces had since regained control of the building.

"The assailants took advantage of some construction work that is taking place to carry out this criminal act," it said in a statement, without elaborating.

Witnesses said the explosion shook the compound in the old district of Sanaa, where the country’s central bank is also located.

“The explosion was very violent…and plumes of smoke rose from the building,” an employee who works in a nearby building told Reuters.

Ambulance sirens and gunshots were heard after the blast as soldiers exchanged fire with the gunmen, said to have been disguised in Yemeni army uniforms.

A military source said that at least 20 people, including militants, were killed in the attack and dozens were wounded. The Yemeni health ministry appealed to citizens to donate blood to help the wounded.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But the US-allied country has been grappling with a security threat by al Qaeda-linked militants, who have repeatedly attacked government officials and installations over the past two years.

The country’s interim government is also dealing with southern secessionists and northern Houthi rebels, along with severe economic problems inherited from veteran President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who was forced out of office in 2011.

The insurgents had been emboldened by a decline in government control over the country during protests that eventually ousted Saleh. They seized several southern cities before being driven out themselves in 2012.

Al Qaeda militants have killed hundreds of Yemeni soldiers and members of the security forces in a series of attacks since an ongoing offensive--which the United States has supported with intelligence and drones--drove them out of their strongholds.

In July last year, a suicide bomber wearing a Yemeni army uniform killed more than 90 people rehearsing for a military parade in Sanaa. Al Qaeda later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Yemen’s defense minister, Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad, escaped a car bomb attack on his motorcade that killed at least 12 other people in September 2012.


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