At least 16 people were killed when assailants in two cars attacked the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and one of the vehicles blew up in front of the main gate. An organization calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks. For VOA, Edward Yeranian has the story from Beirut.

It was the second attack on the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, this year, and by far the bloodiest.

Al Jazeera TV reports that attackers in two vehicles fired rocket-propelled grenades and exchanged gunfire with Yemeni guards protecting the U.S. Embassy, before one of the vehicles blew itself up in front of the main gate.

More than a dozen people were killed in the attack, including six of the attackers, as well as a number of Yemeni soldiers protecting the building, and a handful of civilians outside the main gate.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said that there were no reports of American casualties.

Eyewitnesses told Al Arabiya TV that they saw charred corpses in front of the embassy and at least one vehicle on fire.

One man said that he heard a number of gunshots being fired before a big explosion.

He says that around 7:00 or 7:30 [Wednesday morning], there was an exchange of fire, maybe machine guns. After about five or six rounds he said he heard a big explosion which shook all the windows of the building surrounding the explosion. Then he said the exchange of fire continued and explosions were heard in other places.

Unconfirmed reports say that one of the attackers also blew himself up after running up to an embassy checkpoint on foot.

An organization calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen is claiming responsibility for Wednesday's attack and is threatening to hit other Arab and Western embassies in Yemen and elsewhere in the Gulf. A spokesman for the group is also demanding that Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh release Islamic militants being held in Yemeni jails.

Last March, attackers fired mortar rounds at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, killing one embassy guard and wounding more than a dozen young girls at a nearby school.

The bloodiest attack against U.S. interests in Yemen occurred in October 2000, when attackers in a speedboat rammed into the destroyer U.S.S. Cole in the harbor of the Yemeni port city of Aden. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in that attack.