Six killed in hunt for Yemen bombers
ADEN // At least six people were killed in Sanaa yesterday during a sweep by security forces to find those responsible for an attack on the defence ministry.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Foreign Minister, deplored the terrorist attack.
“The UAE strongly condemns this criminal act and reiterates its firm stance that rejects violence in all forms and manifestations.” He criticised the “terrorist, coward and treacherous act, which contradicts all religious values and humanitarian principles”.
The Thursday attack claimed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula killed 52 people including at least seven Filipinos. Eleven other Filipinos were slightly wounded, said Raul Hernandez, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman. Those killed included a doctor and nurses.
The victims were among 40 Filipino workers in the hospital inside the complex.
Mr Hernandez said that the Philippines’ honorary consul reported that the others survived by pretending to be dead.
“We condemn this senseless and barbaric act and we call on the Yemeni government to bring the masterminds to justice and to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Filipinos and other foreigners in Yemen,” Mr Hernandez said.
Also among the dead were medics from Germany, Vietnam and India.
The others killed were all patients in the hospital, some of them soldiers and some of them civilians, Yemen’s supreme security committee said.
The assault on the ministry involved a suicide car bomb, and the ministry also came under heavy gunfire from nearby houses. Security forces raided several homes in the ministry’s vicinity over the next 24 hours, sparking the yesterday’s clashes.
Al Qaeda gained a major foothold in Yemen’s south amid the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that removed long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The drone strikes and a series of US-backed military offensives helped uproot militants from several key strongholds, but Al Qaeda continues to fight back.
Germany’s foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said German employees of aid groups doing work on behalf of the German government have been ordered to leave Yemen “as quickly as possible” and “until further notice”.
Mr Schafer also said the German embassy will continue to operate with reduced staff and “corresponding security measures.”
The complex in central Sanaa was “stormed ... after the mujaheddin proved that it accommodates drone control rooms and American experts,” Al Qaeda said on Twitter.
“As part of a policy to target drone control rooms, the mujaheddin have dealt a heavy blow to one,” it said.
“Such security headquarters in partnership with the Americans in their war on these Muslim people are a justified target wherever they may be.”
Washington condemned the attack which came as Yemen’s defence minister, Mohammed Nasser, headed a military delegation on a visit to the United States.
The defence ministry said security forces had regained control of the complex on Thursday but residents said they heard gunfire and explosions from the area throughout the night.
The area was still cordoned off yesterday with armoured vehicles blocking off all access roads.
Reports that the militants had readied two more car bombs for use in attack prompted a massive search operation, security officials said.
Up to 25 militants took part in the assault. The state Saba news agency said 11 of them had been killed.
The UN special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, who arrived in Sanaa yesterday to lend his support a stalled national dialogue, said the attack should not be allowed to disrupt the country’s transition.
“This criminal act aims at terrorising Yemenis but will only make them more determined to move forward with peaceful change,” Mr Benomar said.
Al Qaeda in Yemen has been linked to several attempted attacks on the United States, including a botched bid to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in 2009.
The number of dead from US drone strikes in Yemen remains unclear and estimates vary.
According to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that has tried to keep track of the numbers, there have been 93 strikes since 2002 which have killed between 684 and 891 people, among them between 64 and 66 civilians.
Barack Obama, the US president, has defended the drone bombing campaign as an effective tool against Al Qaeda, but has promised to introduce stricter rules and oversight for the strikes, including shifting more of the operations from the CIA to the military to reduce secrecy.
While US officers and agents cooperate with their Yemeni counterparts, the drones are believed to be flown out of bases elsewhere.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: December 6, 2013 04:00 AM