SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s defense minister escaped an assassination attempt on Tuesday but the car bomb that targeted his motorcade killed at least five bodyguards, government sources said.
Witnesses said the explosion took place as Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahamd’s motorcade left the prime minister’s office in the capital Sanaa after a cabinet meeting.
One vehicle carrying security personnel was blown up by the explosion but the minister, who was travelling in a different armored car, survived. Aides said he was unhurt and had told Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa he was safe.
“A booby trapped car waited for the motorcade of the minister near the government offices and as soon as it moved, it exploded,” a security source told Reuters.
“A security car was totally destroyed and all its occupants were killed, but the minister survived because his car is armored.”
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which followed the killing of the deputy leader of the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, Said al-Shehri, in an attack last week.
Officials say it was the fourth assassination attempt against the defense minister since a new government was formed last December after a power transfer deal that saw long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.
Al Qaeda blames the minister for leading a campaign that drove them from their strongholds in southern Yemen, an area that has become of increasing concern to the United States in its wars against Islamist militants.