Yemen: 52 Dead as Al Qaeda Attack Defense Ministry

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula suspected in audacious attack in the heart of Yemen's capital Sana'a.

Ari Soffer ,

Illustration: Yemeni soldiers fighting AQAP
Illustration: Yemeni soldiers fighting AQAP

An attack by suspected Al Qaeda terrorists has left at least 52 dead and scores more wounded in attack on Yemen's Defense Ministry Thursday.

In a familiar tactic, Islamist gunmen stormed the building in the Old City of the capital Sana'a, after a suicide car bomber blew open the gates to the compound, triggering a fierce gunbattle with security forces.

A correspondent for pan-Arab Al Arabiya news station said that gunmen had also stormed the military hospital, which is attached to the Defense Ministry building.

Officials say that "most" of the gunmen have now been killed, but it is not clear whether the remaining terrorists are still at large or were captured alive.

"The explosion was very violent, the whole place shook because of it and plumes of smoke rose from the building," an eyewitness told Reuters news agency.

Though no one has officially taken responsible for the attack, it has been blamed on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the US government designates as the "most dangerous" branch of the Al Qaeda franchise to American interests. Its operatives have frequently been targeted by US drone-strikes, but the organization has managed to take control of parts of the Middle East's poorest country, capitalizing on the political instability which followed the ouster of long-time Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

Government and military installations are regularly target by AQAP as authorities engage in a prolonged, attritional struggle to root-out terrorists from areas they control.