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Al-Qaida Behind Car Bomb at Iran Envoy's Home in Yemen

  • VOA News

A Yemeni stands guard at the damaged residence of the Iranian ambassador after a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, Dec. 3, 2014.

A Yemeni stands guard at the damaged residence of the Iranian ambassador after a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, Dec. 3, 2014.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on the Iranian ambassador's house in the Yemen capital Sana'a early Wednesday.

AQAP wrote on a Twitter account it has repeatedly used in the past that it had parked an explosives-laden car by the house in the city's diplomatic quarter.

There were conflicting reports on the number of people killed, with at least one death confirmed and two others reported. At least 17 other people were wounded.

Yemeni officials said Ambassador Hossein Niknam was not at home at the time of the blast.

Wednesday's bombing blew a large hole in the Iranian residence and sent rubble flying across the street in the well-guarded diplomatic quarter of the city, a Reuters witness said.

Yemen condemns attack

Yemeni government spokesman Raja Badi condemned the attack.

Al Maseera TV, which belongs to the Zaidi-Shi'ite al-Houthi political faction that now controls the capital, said AQAP was "retaliating for its defeat" after being driven out of five Yemeni provinces.

Analyst Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington told VOA that Iran has long been a target in Yemen.

Vatanka said Iran has long been accused of interfering in Yemen.

“You've had Yemen's other major neighbor, Saudi Arabia, accusing Iran of interfering in Yemen. So the list of grievances against the Iranians in Yemen is rather large and given the semi-anarchy that exists in that country, the fact that the Iranians come under attack occasionally is nothing new,” Vatanka said.

Iran's IRNA news agency quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham as saying embassy staff members are in "healthy conditions" and the ministry is investigating the incident.

The U.S. State Department condemned the bombing and expressed condolences to the families of the victims. It said attacks on diplomatic facilities and against diplomats can never be justified or excused.

Houthi movement

Sunni Muslim AQAP fighters have been battling members of the Zaidi Shi'ite Houthi movement, which overran Sana'a in September.

Iran, the Middle East's major Shi'ite power, backs the Houthi rebel movement, which also controls large swathes of the country's north and center.

Iranian officials have been previously targeted in Yemen.

Diplomat Ali Asghar Assad was killed in what was believed to have been a botched kidnapping attempt outside the ambassador's residence in January. Another diplomat is being held hostage by suspected militants.

AQAP also claimed responsibility for an October blast that killed 47 people at a Houthi checkpoint in Sana'a.

Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.

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