SANAA (AFP) – Britain’s envoy to Yemen Timothy Torlot on Monday narrowly escaped a bomb triggered by a suicide bomber who threw himself at the ambassador’s convoy in the capital Sanaa, a security official said.
“The ambassador was not hurt” in the attack, said the security official who requested anonymity.
The official and witnesses said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, who was the only casualty. Medical officials said two bystanders were lightly wounded.
The British Foreign Office confirmed that the ambassador escaped an explosion without specifying whether it was a suicide attack or not.
“We can confirm that there was an incident in Sanaa this morning. There was small explosion beside the British ambassador’s car. He was unhurt. No other embassy staff or British nationals were injured,” a spokesman in London said.
“The embassy will remain closed to the public for the time being. We advise all British nationals in Yemen to keep a low profile and remain vigilant.”
The statement added that Britain was working “urgently” with Yemeni authorities to find out what happened.
Torlot has been the ambassador to Yemen since 2007.
Witnesses said that the bomber was a bit slow in targeting the diplomat’s vehicle and a police car escorting the two-car convoy was partly damaged in the attack, which occurred about 600 metres (yards) from the embassy.
The attacker’s body was torn to pieces and his head flew off some 60 metres (yards), landing in a nearby house, witnesses said.
American and British missions were shut for some days in January following indications that the local branch of Al-Qaeda was targeting Western interests in the south Arabian Peninsula country.
The warning followed the botched Christmas bombing of a US airliner which was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — the local Al-Qaeda franchise.
Yemen’s defence ministry said late December that an attack against the British embassy was foiled after dismantling an Al-Qaeda cell in Arhab, 35 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital.
The attack on the British embassy “was to be modelled on the operation that was carried out against the American embassy” in 2008, which killed 16 people, the defence ministry said then.
Monday’s bombing is the first suicide attack in Yemen since March 2009 when a South Korean delegation was attacked while investigating a bombing few days earlier which killed four South Korean tourists.
No one was killed or injured in that blast.