(AFP) – Sep 18, 2008
SANAA (AFP) — Yemeni authorities have rounded up 25 suspects over a deadly attack on the US embassy in Sanaa claimed by an Al-Qaeda linked Islamist group, a security source said on Thursday.
The Organisation of Islamic Jihad said it was behind Wednesday's car bombing and rocket attack on the highly fortified US mission that killed six soldiers, six assailants and four others, including an American and her Yemeni husband.
It said it was demanding the release of militants being held by the Yemeni authorities, which have been battling a wave of attacks by Al-Qaeda extremists since before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
"We, the Organisation of Islamic Jihad, belonging to the Al-Qaeda network, repeat our demand of (Yemeni President) Ali Abdullah Saleh to free our detained brothers within 48 hours," said a statement signed by self-proclaimed leader Abu Ghaith al-Yamani.
The group vowed it would continue attacks "against Western interests," Yemeni public figures and the Saudi embassy in the capital.
It also called for the closure of the US and British missions in the Arabian peninsula republic, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who remains at large seven years after the September 11 attacks.
The US embassy bombing was the second strike on the compound in six months, and the latest in a spate of attacks against Western interests and oil installations in the country, one of the poorest on the planet.
In a statement on Wednesday, Islamic Jihad said it would "pursue a series of explosions according to our pre-established plan" and threatened to blow up the embassies of Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates if its "brothers" were not freed from Yemeni prisons.
A Yemeni security source said the 25 suspects were rounded up in Sanaa in a manhunt launched on Wednesday which continued through the night.
"The security services tracked down all the suspects," the source added.
Last month, the authorities said they arrested 30 suspected Al-Qaeda members in a crackdown on the network.
"This attack is a reminder that we are at war with extremists who would murder innocent people to achieve their ideological objectives," US President George W. Bush said.
Witnesses said a fierce firefight erupted Wednesday after gunmen raked Yemeni police guarding the embassy compound, before a suicide bomber blew up a car at the entrance, setting off a fireball.
A series of explosions followed as the compound came under rocket and small arms fire.
The US mission said on Wednesday that both the embassy and consular sections were closed after the attack.
The State Department announced on Thursday that Susan el-Baneh, from Buffalo, New York was killed in the attack and that her husband, a Yemeni, also died. It gave no details.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the strike bore "all the hallmarks of an Al-Qaeda attack."
Last month, Yemen said a prominent fugitive member of the local branch of Al-Qaeda was killed in a shootout in the east of the country.
Hamza al-Quayti was one of 23 Al-Qaeda operatives who broke out of jail in February 2006, embarrassing the Yemeni goverment which is seen by Washington as an ally in its "war on terrorism."
In October 2000, Al-Qaeda attacked the American warship the USS Cole off the southern port of Aden with a small boat packed with explosives, killing 17 American sailors.
In April, rockets were fired on a residential complex housing American oil workers and other foreigners in Sanaa. The US embassy ordered the evacuation of non-essential diplomatic staff after the strike which was claimed by Al-Qaeda's Jund al-Yemen Brigades.
The Brigades has also claimed deadly attacks on Belgian and Spanish tourists in the past two years.
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