Sixteen die in suicide bomb attack on US embassy in Yemen

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The Independent Online

Militants armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and at least one suicide car bomb have attacked the US embassy in Yemen.

Sixteen people were killed, including six assailants. American officials said the attack bore "all the hallmarks" of al Qa'ida.

Several explosions were heard outside the heavily-guarded facility in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital and gunfire raged for at least 10 minutes at the concrete checkpoints that ring the compound. The dead included six attackers, six Yemeni guards and four civilians, the state news agency reported. People queuing for visas were among those killed or wounded.

The embassy has been targeted four times in recent years by bombings, mortars and shootings and this was the deadliest attack so far. Gunmen in a vehicle attacked a checkpoint outside the embassy at 9.15am yesterday with RPGs and automatic wea-pons, Yemeni security officials said. During the assault, suicide bombers in a car made it past the checkpoint and blew themselves up after hitting a second, inner ring of concrete.

There were conflicting accounts of a second suicide bomb car. At least seven wounded civilians, including children from nearby houses, were taken to the Republican Hospital in Sana'a, a medical official said.

"This attack is a reminder that we are at war with extremists who will murder innocent people to achieve their ideological objectives," said President George Bush.

A senior US official in Washington said at least five explosions were heard – but embassy officials spoke of "secondary explosions", suggesting some could have been RPG blasts.

The Washington official said some of the attackers were dressed as Yemeni troops and that emergency personnel were hit by heavy sniper fire from gunmen who had stationed themselves across the street from the embassy.

Yemeni security officials said a little-known group called Islamic Jihad, unrelated to the Palestinian group of the same name, claimed responsibility for the attack. Previous incidents attributed to them have been claimed by al- Qa'ida in internet posts.

Yemen, which is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, has struggled to put down Islamic militants linked to al-Qa'ida, often to the frustration of US counter-terrorism officials.

Non-essential embassy personnel and family members were ordered to leave after a mortar attack last month. A girls high school next door was hit during the assault, killing a Yemeni security guard and wounding more than a dozen pupils.