Yesterday, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) conducted a rocket attack on the US embassy in Yemen’s embattled capital, Sana’a. The attack was reportedly carried out by AQAP fighters riding past the embassy on a motor bike.
According to Arabic media reports, the rocket fell about 100 meters from the embassy last night and caused no injuries or deaths. Some reports speculate that the concrete slabs directly in front of the embassy may have absorbed much of the force of the blast and thereby spared the embassy’s employees and structures. Other reports claimed that Yemeni guards were wounded in the attack.
This development comes just two days after the US State Department issued a statement directing some diplomats and government employees working in the Sana’a embassy to leave the country, citing the “changing, unpredictable security situation in Yemen.” The statement noted that the embassy would remain open with the majority of staff on site.
AQAP took credit for the attack via one of its affiliated accounts on Twitter, claiming that “the attack resulted in injuries among the embassy guards” and caused material damages to some of the protective measures surrounding the facility. AQAP also specified that the rocket used in the attack was a “Lu-type rocket,” while other sources suggested that the fighters used an M72 light antitank weapon.
AQAP’s release stated that “the attack came as a response of an American drone’s targeting of Muslim children in a bombardment that occurred of Friday evening in al Jawf that resulted in their being wounded severely.”
A US drone strike on Sept. 26 in Yemen’s northern al Jawf province killed two AQAP fighters in the Khasaf region, near the provincial capital, Hazm. Sources claimed that three young children, said to be brothers, were injured as a result of the strike. The brothers were reportedly wounded while in the vicinity of their homes, close to the location of the strike.
Al Jawf is a known haven for top al Qaeda leaders. US drones have struck AQAP in Al Jawf six other times since the beginning of 2010. The last strike in the province took place on March 12, killing a local AQAP military commander known as Moajab bin Aziz, as well as his bodyguard.
The security situation in the Yemeni capital has been deteriorating since last week, when Shiite Houthi rebels flooded into the city and seized much of it. AQAP has capitalized on the current chaos to consolidate its power and increase its terrorist activities outside of its traditional power base located in Yemen’s southern provinces. Prior to yesterday’s rocket attack, the group’s most recent operation in the capital took place on Sept. 22, when AQAP targeted a Houthi military team with an improvised explosive device (IED) on Television Road.