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Iranian embassy staff unharmed in Sana’a bombing - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Onlookers gather near a vehicle damaged by a car bomb attack on the residence of the Iranian ambassador in Sana', Yemen, on December 3, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Onlookers gather near a vehicle damaged by a car bomb attack on the residence of the Iranian ambassador in Sana', Yemen, on December 3, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—No members of staff at Iran’s embassy in the Yemeni capital Sana’a were harmed during the attack that targeted the residence of ambassador Hussein Niknam on Wednesday, according to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham.

While no embassy staff were known to have been hurt, one Yemeni civilian and two soldiers were killed and over a dozen bystanders were wounded, according to medical sources quoted by the Reuters news agency.

Ambassador Niknam was not in his residence during the attack, which occurred only 48 hours after he presented his credentials to Yemen’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Yemen’s government strongly condemned the attack, which it described as a “threat to social peace and the country’s supreme interests.”

Director of public relations at the Ministry of Interior, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Al-Kaidi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the authorities could not “directly accuse any specific side” of carrying out the attack, but added that security investigations were “ongoing to uncover the perpetrators.”

“It is a terrorist incident targeting security and stability in the first place, and Yemen’s ties with sisterly and friendly countries,” he added.

Ambulances raced to the site of the explosion and many of the injured guards and civilians were transferred to nearby hospitals, eyewitnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The explosion caused heavy damage to the ambassador’s residence and left a 2-meter deep crater. Several nearby buildings were also damaged in the attack, according to eyewitnesses.

A Twitter account linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack.

The incident was met with widespread condemnation, with the US embassy in Sana’a denouncing the attack and urging the Yemeni authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Attacks on diplomatic facilities and against diplomats contravene all international norms and can never be justified or excused,” a statement issued by the US State Department said.

The UK also strongly condemned the explosion and reiterated its support for “President [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi and the new government to implement the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, the National Dialogue Conference Outcomes and the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and Implementation Mechanism,” in a statement issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Separately, representative of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Secretary-General Saleh Bin Abdulaziz Al-Qunaieer met President Hadi in Sana’a on Tuesday to discuss recent political developments and the implementation of the Gulf Initiative.

Following a wave of public anti-government protests in Yemen in 2012, the GCC sponsored an initiative aimed at securing a peaceful transfer of power, and which saw the then-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, step down in favor of his deputy Hadi.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the head of the GCC’s mission to Yemen, Saad Al-Arify, said Qunaieer’s visit came within the framework of implementing the terms of the third and last phase of the Gulf Initiative.

GCC states are “keen to provide all aspects of necessary support to push the political process in Yemen forward and help the people of Yemen to overcome the current challenges,” Arify said.

The official said the GCC was seeking to help Yemen’s government implement the transition and speed up the implementation of the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and Peace and Partnership Agreement.

“GCC states firmly stand with maintaining stability in Yemen because the security of Yemen is part of the security and stability of the countries of the region,” he added.

The GCC is concerned over growing instability in neighboring countries after militants loyal to the insurgent Houthi movement captured large parts of Sana’a and other central and western governorates earlier this year.

Tuesday’s talks centered on the growing influence of the Houthis—who have been accused of having links with Iran—and ways to restore government control on the Yemeni street, a senior GCC official who requested anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat.