World / Middle East

Yemeni defense minister injured in suicide car bombing

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-09-12 09:03

SANAA - The death toll of a car bomb attack earlier Tuesday targeting the motorcade of Yemeni defense minister in central Sanaa rose to 12, seven of whom were bodyguards of the minister, said Yemen's interior ministry.

"Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed survived the terrorist attack as his car was armored, but he was critically injured in his chest and the attack bruised his face," the Interior Ministry said in a brief statement two hours after the bombing attack.

"His health condition is stable and doctors said he would recover very soon," said the Ministry.

"The death toll rose to 12, and seven of them were bodyguards of the defense minister," it said, blaming the attack for the resurgent militants of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Two police officials at the scene told Xinhua that the guards' commander of the defense minister and his driver were among the killed.

Police officers and witnesses said four burnt bodies were found at the scene of the attack and are believed to be the suicide bombers affiliated to AQAP.

They said the bombing attack occurred immediately after the motorcade of the defense minister left the gate of the prime minister's office, where he attended along with other ministers the cabinet's weekly meeting.

Security investigators at the scene told Xinhua that they defused a remote controlled big explosive device concealed inside a vehicle parking on the nearby road near the prime minister's office.

Three passers-by and two security soldiers guarding the prime minister's office were also killed in the bombing attack, according to the police officers.

More than 15 others were wounded in the powerful bombing, including Yemeni diplomat identified as Abdulmajid al-Qubati.

The attack destroyed eight vehicles, with at least four belonging to the motorcade of the defense minister, and it caused damages to the houses of the nearby residential area.

The police cordoned off the area as they were trying to put down the huge fire resulting from the bombing.

Residents who rushed to the scene said they heard the explosion 's sound about 15 km away from the prime minister's office. the powerful bombing waggled their houses.

This was the fourth time that the militants of AQAP target the defense minister after they failed in two previous attacks in the southern port city of Aden and once in the southern province of Abyan.

The attacks has raised public anger against al-Qaida group and the people asked the Yemeni government to adopt more strict security measures to prevent further attacks in the major cities.

The attack came one day after the defense ministry announced that its forces killed the second-in-command al-Qaida leader in the Arabian Peninsula, Saeed Ali al-Shihri, in a military raid in the southeast province of Hadramout on Monday.

AQAP has yet to confirm al-Shihri's death.

The Saudi fugitive became the deputy to AQAP's Yemeni leader Naser al-Wahaishi when the Yemeni and Saudi terrorist wings merged in 2009.

Al-Shihri had served a prison term in the US military prison in Guantanamo before he was deported to the Saudi Arabia. He then fled to Yemen along with other hundreds of Saudi wanted militants to join AQAP.

AQAP, known locally as Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), took advantage of last year's political upheaval to take over several towns in the southern restive regions.

The militants were recently either captured or killed by the Yemeni security authorities after a US-backed offensive, which directly commanded by the defense minister and launched in Abyan province three months ago routed the militants out of their strongholds that they had controlled for nearly a year.

The United states and neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia have beefed up anti-terror cooperation with the Yemeni government since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office in February, after a year of political upheaval that allowed AQAP to capture several cities in southern Yemen.

Combating al-Qaida network in Yemen remains one of the biggest challenges confronting Hadi, who has promised to reform the army, restore security and uproot resurgent AQAP.

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