Wednesday, September 17, 2008
16 Die in Attack on U.S. Embassy in Yemen
By ROBERT WORTH
Published: September 17, 2008
Heavily armed militants opened fire on the United States Embassy in Sana, Yemen, on Wednesday and detonated a car bomb at its gates, killing at least 16 people, Yemeni officials said.
No Americans were killed or injured in the blast, said a Yemeni official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Yemeni security officials and witnesses said the death toll was at least 16, including four bystanders, one of them an Indian woman. The other dead were six attackers and six security guards, the Yemeni officials said, speaking in return for anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. Yemen’s official Saba news agency also reported that 16 people were killed.
Ryan Gliha, an embassy spokesman, said via e-mail that the attack took place at 9:15 a.m. The embassy would remain closed for now, he said, but gave no further details.
It was the deadliest attack in years on an American target in Yemen, a poor south Arabian country of 22 million where militants aligned with Al Qaeda have carried out a number of recent strikes.
The attack began when a car raced up to the heavily fortified embassy compound. Several attackers got out and began firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles at the guards who returned the fire, the Yemeni official said.
A second car then drove into the compound’s gate and exploded in what appeared to be a suicide bombing, the official said.
The attack was especially shocking to many Yemenis because it came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Yemen has long been viewed as a haven for jihadists. It became a special concern for the United States in 2000, after Al Qaeda operatives rammed the U.S.S. Cole in Aden harbor, on Yemen’s southern coast, killing 17 American sailors.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Yemen actively pursued a counter-terrorism partnership with the United States, and its American-trained forces have had some important successes in fighting militants.
But over the past two years, jihadists claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda appear to have reorganized, releasing more propaganda material on the Internet and carrying out attacks.
In July 2007, suicide bombers killed eight Spanish tourists in eastern Yemen, and there were two unsuccessful attacks on oil installations.
Earlier this year there were several attacks on foreign embassies. In March, mortars fired at the U.S. Embassy compound in Sana struck a nearby school for girls instead, killing a security guard and wounding more than a dozen students.
The U.S. compound has also been the scene of occasional political violence in previous years, including a large demonstration against the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, in which two Yemenis were fatally shot and dozens injured.
Yemen has also faced serious security threats on other fronts, including an intermittent rebellion in the north that has kept the country’s military engaged, and continuing riots and instability in the south.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 5:21 AM