By National Yemen
A suicide bombing has rocked Yemen’s defence ministry complex in the heart of the capital Sanaa, followed by a gun battle that left many casualties, according to the Yemeni Defence Ministry. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the country has been grappling with a security threat by al-Qaeda-linked militants, who have repeatedly attacked government officials.
The ministry’s medical clinic appeared to have borne the brunt of the attack, though it was unclear if foreigners were the target. Reuters quoted a medical source and a ministry official as saying the gunmen had shot dead at least two foreign employees, a western doctor and a Filipina nurse, in front of local staff in the courtyard.
Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, immediately paid a visit to the place and ordered an urgent investigation into what was clearly a sophisticated and co-ordinated attack. According to some reports, the gunmen wore Yemeni army uniforms.
A statement by the Supreme Security Commission, which is led by the president, says 167 people also have also been wounded in Thursday’s attack, the deadliest in Sanaa in years.
They say casualties included soldiers, staff at a military hospital inside the Defense Ministry’s downtown complex and civilians.
One witness said “The heavy gunfire on the hospital was shocking.”
A second witness said “We first heard the sound of gunfire then we realized that there were people in military costume throwing bombs inside the hospital.”
This took place while Defense Minister, Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad was not caught up in the attack. On Thursday he had been visiting the United States.
Yemen has been plagued with a series of violent attacks, as the interim government grapples with southern secessionists, al-Qaeda-linked groups and northern Houthi rebels, as well as severe economic problems inherited from veteran President Ali Abdallah Saleh who was forced out of office following protests against his rule in 2011.