SAN’A, Yemen (AP) – A cell of the Al-Qaeda terror network was behind a failed mortar strike on the U.S. embassy in Yemen, an Interior Ministry official said Saturday.
Al-Qaeda militant Hamza al-Dayan launched three mortars at the U.S. embassy Tuesday before fleeing the scene in a vehicle with three other accomplices, the official said on customary condition of anonymity.
The mortar shells missed the embassy and crashed into a nearby school in the downtown Sawan district San’a, killing a security guard and wounding 13 schoolgirls, three grievously.
On Thursday, the police arrested five suspects in the attack. It is not clear if they have any connection to al-Dayan and his men who remain at large. The embassy has informed its nonessential staff they are permitted to leave Yemen if they want to.
The heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in the downtown Sawan district San’a, has been targeted in the past.
In March 2002, a Yemeni man lobbed a sound grenade into the embassy grounds a day after Vice President Dick Cheney made a stop for talks with officials at the San’a airport. The attacker, who allegedly sought to retaliate against what he called American bias toward Israel, was sentenced to 10 years in prison but the sentence was later reduced to seven years.
In March 2003, two people were fatally shot and dozens more were injured as police clashed with demonstrators trying to storm the embassy when tens of thousands rallied against U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
In 2006, a gunman opened fire outside the embassy but was shot and arrested by Yemeni guards. The gunman, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, claimed he wanted to kill Americans.
Al-Qaeda has an active presence in Yemen despite government efforts to destroy it. The group was blamed for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 American sailors and an attack on a French oil tanker that killed one person two years later.
In a separate incident, a strong explosion rocked the southern suburb of San’a early Saturday inside a gas station and a nearby hotel caught fire, the security official said.
The cause of the explosion is not yet clear.