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Official in Yemen survives 2d attack

Al Qaeda blamed for suicide bomb

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post / September 28, 2011

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SANA, Yemen - Yemen’s defense minister escaped a suicide bomb attack on his convoy in the volatile southern city of Aden yesterday, an assault that government officials blamed on Al Qaeda.

It was the second attempt to kill Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed in less than a month, underscoring the tense environment in Yemen’s south, where Qaeda-linked militants have taken control over large swaths of territory this year.

A suicide bomber driving a car detonated explosives alongside the minister’s convoy on a coastal highway in Aden. The government said in a statement that several members of the minister’s security detail were injured but that he was unharmed. No group has asserted responsibility, but the government blamed “Al Qaeda terrorists.’’

Late last month, Ahmed’s vehicle struck a land mine in Abyan Province, also in the south, killing two of his bodyguards.

Yesterday’s attack happened just five days after President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Yemen after nearly four months in Saudi Arabia, where he received treatment for injuries from a June attack on his presidential compound. Many Yemenis fear his return will stoke more violence in this Middle Eastern nation, the region’s poorest, which has been gripped by an eight-month-old populist uprising.

Although Aden has not experience the sort of urban warfare that has taken place in the capital, Sana, and other cities, it has nevertheless become a focal point of tension. Qaeda militants have taken over areas north of Aden in Abyan Province, including the provincial capital Zinjibar, and are engaged in fierce battles with government forces. Suicide bombings and attacks against soldiers have increased in recent months in Aden, and thousands have been displaced by the fighting in Abyan.

The Obama administration and its allies are concerned about the turmoil in the south, which has long provided a haven for Qaeda’s Yemen branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The group has tried to attack in the United States twice since December 2009, and US officials have publicly declared it the most dangerous Qaeda wing. Aden is also nestled along major shipping routes, where 3 million barrels of oil pass daily, creating potential targets for the network, if it manages to deepen its foothold.

The violence in Sana, which last week and over the weekend left more than 150 dead, has subsided, but tensions remain. Yesterday, thousands of protesters took the streets, demanding that Saleh step down.

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