News / Middle East

Assailants in Yemen Attack British Diplomats, Frenchman

Yemeni security forces and forensics personnel attend the scene where an attack took place on a convoy carrying a senior British diplomat in Sana'a, Yemen, 06 Oct. 2010
Yemeni security forces and forensics personnel attend the scene where an attack took place on a convoy carrying a senior British diplomat in Sana'a, Yemen, 06 Oct. 2010

An attack on a British embassy car in the Yemeni capital has left one passenger and several passersby injured. Officials say a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near a car carrying five employees to the British embassy.  Officials say the deputy chief of mission was among those in the vehicle, but was not hurt.

The armored car is said to have been hit by shrapnel from the explosion.  A witness, Aly Mossad, said he found a bag with the remains of a weapon launcher.

He said he saw two men in traditional clothing with their faces uncovered running away from the scene.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.  But it follows warnings of possible strikes by the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.  Security had been stepped up at several foreign missions.

In a second attack, officials say a security guard at a foreign compound near the capital opened fire, killing a French employee.  Authorities say the gunman, who also worked at the Austrian energy firm OMV, was later disarmed and detained.   No motive was given for the attack.

Despite international financial backing and military help from the United States, the Yemeni government is struggling to counter al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula throughout the country.  Much of Yemen is beyond the government's control, and the militants have found safe havens among tribal leaders whose loyalties to Sana'a are unsteady.

In April, a suicide bomber killed himself near the car of the British ambassador in the capital.  The envoy was not injured.  The U.S. embassy and other American interests have come under attack and threat of attack repeatedly.

Efforts to help the impoverished Arab country fight militants were renewed late last year after a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner was linked to Yemeni extremists. 

"The Detroit bomber last Christmas emanated from Yemen and it has sparked an interest that al-Qaida is interested in infiltrating empty spaces in Yemen which is why there is a heightened security interest," said British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt.  "And today's incident will simply enhance that and ensure that we recognize that this is a dangerous place in which the world needs to be engaged."

Officials have reported some progress in strikes against militant targets.  But witnesses say attacks by drones, widely believed to be American, have killed civilians, further alienating Yemenis from their government and its backers.

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