Last updated: 27 September, 2011

Yemen defence minister escapes assassination bid

Yemeni Defence Minister Mohammad Nasser Ahmad Ali escaped an assassination bid by a suicide bomber Tuesday in the southern port city of Aden but 10 of his party were wounded, a security official said.

“A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives drove into the minister’s motorcade as he was driving out of a tunnel,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He added that the minister survived the attack but 10 people travelling with him were wounded.

The attack came as Ali was heading to a hotel in Aden where he has been staying on a duty visit to the restive south.

The defence ministry claimed in a statement carried by Saba state news agency that Al-Qaeda militants, who are active in the lawless regions of the south, were behind the attack.

Troops have been engaged in deadly fighting for months with militants linked to Al-Qaeda in Abyan province, east of the city.

Since May, the militants have taken control of three towns in Abyan, including its capital, Zinjibar, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent months.

The government claims to have regained control of Zinjibar, but security officials have told AFP that the city remains partially under Al-Qaeda’s influence.

A witness told AFP that the explosion “was big and flames erupted from the bomb-laden car,” adding that he saw wounded soldiers.

Tuesday’s assassination attempt was the second against Ahmad in less than a month.

On August 30, the minister escaped unharmed when a bomb targeting his convoy exploded near Al-Kud, a village in Abyan province the army had recaptured from Al-Qaeda two days earlier.

Two soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the August blast. As in Tuesday’s assassination attempt, the minister had been visiting troops battling Al-Qaeda in the troubled southern province.

The latest violence comes just two days after armed tribesmen allied with dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar killed a Yemeni general from the elite Republican Guard troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The tribesmen attacked a Republican Guard base in the village of Nihm, one of several villages that collectively make up the strategic northern gateway into the capital Sanaa.

A tribesman was killed Tuesday in continued clashes near Nihm, a tribal source said.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to resolve the political crisis that has rocked Yemen since tens of thousands of anti-government protesters began demanding Saleh’s resignation in January are faltering.

Despite repeated calls by the United States, the United Nations and the leaders of Gulf nations for Saleh to step down and hand power over to his vice president, he has refused to do so.