Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility on Friday for the double suicide attack targeting the Yemeni Defense Ministry in the heart of Sana’a, which killed at least 52 people.
AQAP’s media wing, Al-Malahim, announced that the group had targeted the ministry complex in Sana’a because unmanned US drones were being operated from the site.
Thursday’s attack was the deadliest in Sana’a since May 2012.
The suicide operation on Thursday killed at least 52 people, including seven foreigners, and injured 167, Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee announced.
Yemeni state news agency Saba reported that two doctors from Germany, two doctors from Vietnam, two nurses from Philippines, and one nurse from India were among those killed.
Following the attack, the Yemeni government stepped up security around Western embassies and state infrastructure in the capital.
According to eyewitnesses, unknown gunmen drove a car rigged with explosives into the gates of the defense ministry before gunmen in vehicles attempted to storm the building.
Guards exchanged fire with the gunmen for several hours until the defense ministry announced that the situation was under control and all attackers had either been killed or captured.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, local sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemeni authorities sealed off roads leading to the US and British embassies and ordered schools nearby to close out of fear of further terrorist acts.
Yemen’s Health Ministry issued a plea for blood donations for the injured, who are receiving treatment at the capital’s military hospital.
A defense ministry source, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, accused unnamed military commanders of facilitating the attack.
According to the source, those behind the attack are seeking to sabotage the National Dialogue Conference and are trying to send a message to Yemen’s foreign allies who are seeking to promote domestic security and stability.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, retired Gen. Mohsen Khasruf said the terrorist operation aimed to send a “clear message to the [Yemeni] presidency and defense and security establishments.”
“This is an attempt to show that President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is in a weak position and unable to run the country,” he added.