Al-Qaida Cell in Yemen Claims Responsibility for Rocket Fire at U.S. Embassy

Militants say attack was retaliation for U.S. drone strike on Friday.

A grave of a Yemeni soldier killed by Al-Qaida militants.
A grave of a Yemeni soldier killed by Al-Qaida militants in northeastern Yemen, August 10, 2014. Reuters

REUTERS - An Al-Qaida splinter group launched a rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Sana'a on Saturday, injuring several guards, to retaliate for what it said on social media was a U.S. drone strike in a northern province the day before.

The rocket exploded 200 meters from the heavily fortified embassy, which lies in a compound surrounded by high walls, hitting members of the Yemeni special police force who guard the site. At least two were injured, police said.

The attacker fired the rocket from a M72 light anti-tank weapon from a car before speeding away, a police source told Reuters.

Several hours after the attack, Ansar al-Sharia, an affiliate of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, said on its Twitter account it had targeted the embassy with a rocket, injuring several guards and damaging a vehicle.

The group said the attack was revenge for a drone strike on Friday that had seriously wounded children in the northern al Jawf province.

Tribal sources confirmed that a drone strike killed two al Qaeda members and wounded two more in al Jawf on Friday, and that there were reports of some children having been wounded.

The United States regularly uses drones to attack Islamist militants in countries such as Yemen as part of a strategy to combat Al-Qaida militants without committing troops on the ground.

Washington acknowledges using drones in Yemen but does not comment publicly on the practice. Al Qaeda in Yemen, including AQAP and its affiliates, are among the most active wings of the network founded by Osama bin Lade.

U.S. warns citizens

The U.S. embassy in Yemen had said earlier on social media that it had no reason to believe that it was the target of the attack and that Yemeni government was looking into the situation.

The attack comes a day after the United States told its citizens to leave Yemen and said it was reducing the number of U.S. government staff there due to political unrest and fears of a possible military escalation.

Recent weeks have seen regular clashes between Shi'ite Hawthi rebels and government forces in Sana'a. The Hawthis seized control of the capital last week hours before the signing of an accord for the creation of a new government.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has said Yemen may be heading for civil war.

The U.S. embassy compound was stormed in 2012 by demonstrators angry at a film made in the United States which they saw as blasphemous.

In May, the embassy said armed individuals had attempted to kidnap two of its officers at a small commercial business in Sana'a.