SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A powerful car bomb struck the Yemeni defense minister's motorcade as he was driving through the nation's capital Tuesday, killing at least 13 people but leaving the minister unharmed, security officials said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast but al-Qaida's Yemeni branch has carried out several failed assassination attempts against the minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, in the past. The attack comes a day after Yemeni authorities announced the death of the No. 2 leader of the network's Yemeni branch in an apparent U.S. airstrike.
Tuesday's bombing hit the last vehicle in the minister's three-car convoy as it was traveling through Sanaa's al-Izaa neighborhood, Yemeni security officials said. The blast left the car a charred hulk of twisted metal with burnt bodies strapped inside, and blew out the windows of storefronts and scorched a building nearby. Pools of blood stained the pavement.
Eight of the minister's security guards and five civilian bystanders were killed, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
"This is awful," said Mohamed El-Mehdi, who works in the area. "The people and children are unable to grasp what happened."
He said some of the five civilians killed were the owners of nearby shops.
While there was no claim of responsibility for the assassination attempt, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror network's Yemeni branch, has been locked in a fierce battle with the country's military, and has tried on several recent occasions to kill the defense minister.
In May, the group carried out a suicide bombing that killed 96 soldiers and wounded at least 200 in a military parade in the capital. Al-Qaida said it had been targeting Ahmed, who was not hurt in the attack.