The United States embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, was hit by a car bombing and rocket fire on Wednesday, sparking a series of explosions around the heavily fortified compound, a witness said.
The car was blown up in front of the entrance to the compound and gunmen in a second vehicle then opened fire on embassy security guards with rockets as well as small arms, the witness said.
The witness said there were casualties among the Yemeni police detachment posted outside the embassy but he could not specify their number or condition.
Another witness saw at least two ambulances at the scene.
A US embassy official declined to comment on the blasts. ”I cannot confirm it. I cannot talk about it,” the official said, asking not to be identified.
It was the second attack on the embassy this year. In March, a schoolgirl and a police officer were killed and 19 people wounded in a hail of mortar fire that US diplomats said targeted the embassy.
After another attack against a residential compound used by US oilmen the following month, the US State Department ordered the evacuation of non-essential diplomatic staff.
Al-Qaeda said it carried out the rocket attack on the Hadda residential compound to avenge the capture of one its commanders in Yemen, Abdullah al-Rimi.
”Embassy employees are not authorised to travel outside of Sana’a and have been advised to avoid hotels, restaurants, and tourist areas and to strictly limit their exposure in public places until further notice,” an embassy statement said in April.
The embassy called on Americans in Yemen to ”exercise caution and take prudent security measures, including maintaining a high level of vigilance, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all travel”.
In recent years, militants have carried out a string of attacks in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and one of the poorest countries on the planet.
In October 2000, al-Qaeda attacked American warship the USS Cole off the southern port of Aden, using a small boat packed with explosives to blow a hole in the side of the vessel, killing 17 American sailors.
Al-Qaeda’s local wing, which calls itself Jund Al-Yemen Brigades, has also claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on Belgian and Spanish tourists in Yemen this year.
The country is awash with weapons, with roughly three firearms for every citizen.
It has become a major focus of the US ”war against terror” and the US military has a major base across the Bab al-Mandab strait in Djibouti.
Last month, Yemeni security forces announced the arrest of 30 suspected al-Qaeda members, saying they had dismantled an extremist cell, as part of a crackdown on the jihadist network in the eastern part of the country.
On August 12, the Ministry of Defence announced the death of a local chief and four others belonging to al-Qaeda after armed clashes that left two police officers dead. — Sapa-AFP