Suicide bomber targets British ambassador in Yemen

By Mohammed Sudam

SANAA (BestGrowthStock) – A suspected al Qaeda suicide bomber attacked the British ambassador’s convoy in Yemen early on Monday, killing himself and injuring three others, but the envoy was unharmed, Yemeni and British officials said.

The hit “bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda,” Yemen’s Interior Ministry said, a reminder the militants were still intent on and capable of carrying out high-impact attacks despite recent efforts by Sanaa to crack down on the global militant group.

Ambassador Tim Torlot was on his way to the embassy when the blast occurred, the ministry said. Two of the wounded were security officers escorting the ambassador’s motorcade, while the third was a bystander.

Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed a small explosion took place beside the ambassador’s car. He was unhurt and no other embassy staff were injured, it said in a statement.

The embassy will be closed to the public indefinitely.

The suicide bomber, 22-year-old Yemeni student Othman Ali al-Sulwi, from the southern town of Taizz, wore an explosive belt and he threw himself at the ambassador’s convoy, Yemen’s Interior Ministry said.

Body parts were scattered on the roofs of nearby houses, the ministry said. The rear window of Torlot’s armored car was spattered with blood, a British diplomat in Sanaa told Reuters.

Yemen has for years been battling al Qaeda and other militant groups. The regional wing of the militant group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is based in Yemen and has previously threatened to attack embassies.

Yemen’s al Qaeda arm most recently claimed a December bomb attempt on a U.S.-bound plane and revelations followed that the suspected Nigerian bomber had visited Yemen and had been in contact with militants there, prompting a major crackdown.

Analysts said Monday’s attack suggested al Qaeda still posed a significant threat in Yemen, which lies next door to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

“I think this shows al Qaeda is not disappearing and it has been plotting and planning attacks in Yemen and abroad, and I think this is a new campaign of targeted assassinations,” said Theodore Karasik of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s explosion, but a Yemeni security official told Reuters dozens of al Qaeda suspects had been arrested in different parts of Yemen in connection with the attack.

The British Foreign Office said it was advising all British nationals in Yemen to keep a low profile and remain vigilant. The U.S., German and French embassies all remained open.

GLOBAL CONCERN

Al Qaeda’s December airliner plot heightened international concern over Yemen’s instability and a conference of Western and Arab donors was convened in London to discuss ways to help stabilize the impoverished country.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among those at the meeting who urged the government to enact reforms and combat corruption, although no new money was pledged.

Yemen, located near a major shipping lane, is also facing rising unrest in its south, where a separatist movement objects to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A government crackdown has led to deaths on both sides.

Sanaa concluded a fragile truce deal in February with northern Shi’ite rebels, who complain of discrimination by the government, bringing an end to the latest round of heavy fighting in a conflict that has raged on and off since 2004.

In a separate incident, a Yemeni opposition party said on Monday a gunman had fired on one of its leaders’ car in Sanaa the previous evening, but no one was wounded.

Abd al-Wahab Mahmoud Abd al-Hamid, a senior member the opposition group was not in his car at the time but his wife and daughter were, family members told Reuters.

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(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Erika Solomon in Dubai; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Suicide bomber targets British ambassador in Yemen