Yemeni Defense Minister Mohammed Naser Ahmed survived a car-bomb attack on his convoy near the Cabinet building in the capital Sana’a, a day after the deputy leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen was killed in a raid.
The blast yesterday killed 12 people, including seven of the minister’s bodyguards, Interior Minister Brigadier General Abdulqader Qahtan said, according to the state-run Saba news agency.
Yemen’s U.S.-backed fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has failed to halt multiple-casualty attacks against the security forces. In May, a suicide blast at a Sana’a parade rehearsal killed more than 90 policemen as the defense minister and Chief of Staff Ahmed al-Ashwal watched. Both were uninjured.
“It’s very likely this is a retaliatory strike because U.S. and Yemeni forces are going after al-Qaeda,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said by telephone yesterday. “This is part of the tit-for-tat between the Yemeni authority and al-Qaeda.”
Saeed al-Shehri, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s second-in-command and a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, was killed in a “special military raid” by Yemeni forces in Hadramut province, the Defense Ministry said Sept. 10. Six of the Saudi national’s bodyguards also died, the ministry said in a statement.
Yemeni security forces under the country’s new president, Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, have been battling Islamic fighters in the south of the country with U.S. assistance. Eight suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed on Aug. 31 in an airstrike in the same region in the southeast.
Hadi dismissed a number of officials yesterday, including the chief of national security, the chief of military intelligence, the secretary general of the presidential office, the chief of the military intelligence unit at the defense ministry, and the chief of the office of the supreme commander of the armed forces, who is also the half-brother of the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, state television reported. The fired officials are close allies of the former president.
Hadi moved the oil and minerals minister Hisham Sharaf to the ministry of higher education and appointed the former vice minister of oil and minerals to replace Sharaf. He also appointed a new chief for Safer Safer Exploration & Production Operations Co. He also named five new governors.
The Obama administration has aided Yemen’s fight against al-Qaeda, while Saudi Arabia and international donors last week pledged as much as $6.4 billion to help the country rebuild. Protests last year weakened the central government’s authority and forced Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled for more than three decades, to cede power.
Thousands of people denounced terrorism and called for the prosecution of Saleh and his supporters in a demonstration in Sana’a yesterday. The protesters condemned attacks on the oil and gas pipelines and electricity and chanted “No to terrorism.”