25 dead after suicide blast and shootings at Yemen defence ministry

Western doctor, Filipino nurse dragged out and shot as gunmen stormed defence ministry

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 5:27am

A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into Yemen's defence ministry yesterday, allowing gunmen to launch an assault on the complex which left 25 people, including three foreign doctors, dead.

A medical source and a ministry official said the gunmen pulled at least two foreign employees, a Western doctor and a Filipino nurse, into the hospital courtyard and shot them dead in front of local staff.

Six doctors - including a Venezuelan and two from the Philippines - three Yemenis and five patients, including a judge, were among the dead.

The defence ministry said gunmen occupied the hospital after the explosion, but security forces had regained control of the building.

The attack began as ministry employees were arriving for work when a vehicle exploded at the compound's gate.

The blast shook the bustling Bab al-Yemen neighbourhood on the edge of Sanaa's old city, a warren of market stalls and stone tower houses decorated with stained glass windows and ornate plasterwork.

Ambulance sirens and gunshots were heard after the blast as a second vehicle entered the compound carrying armed men dressed in Yemeni army uniforms and exchanged fire with soldiers.

The gunmen were armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.

"The attackers have exploited some construction work there to carry out this criminal act ... the situation is under control," the ministry said.

The construction work was taking place near the compound's hospital facility, the statement said.

The attack was apparently timed to coincide with the changing of the guard at the complex, when gates are opened to allow soldiers to enter and leave.

Yemeni special operations forces in armoured vehicles surrounded the building, fighting gun battles with about a dozen assailants.

The blast badly damaged a hospital inside the complex, started a fire and blew out windows and the doors of nearby homes and offices.

The blast and the gunfight destroyed an army vehicle and reduced three civilian cars outside the complex to charred debris

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which some analysts said had the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

Security in Yemen is an international concern. The US-allied country shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and is home to one of the most active branches of al- Qaeda that has plotted attacks against Western targets.

Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse