Security forces sealed off the area and launched a hunt for a man who fled after throwing the bomb on Sunday, into the marketplace in Sanaa's southeastern district of Shumaila, police said.

 

The market, which was packed with people at the time, sells Qat, a mild narcotic leaf popular in Yemen.

 

Yemen, the ancestral home of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has seen several attacks in recent years, notably the bombing of US destroyer Cole in the southern port of Aden in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

 

A 2002 attack against the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen killed one Bulgarian crew member and wounded 12 others.

 

Terror cases

 

A number of terrorism-related court cases involving Islamists are currently under way in Yemen.

 

An official journal said earlier this month that 172 people were awaiting trial in Yemen for suspected links to al-Qaeda. Many more have already been tried.

 

Yemen is also facing an uprising by members of the minority Zaidi community which has left hundreds of people dead over the past two years.

 

The Zaidis are an offshoot of Shia Islam and are dominant in northwestern Yemen, but form a minority in the mainly Sunni country.

 

Ali Abd Allah Saleh, Yemen's president, has accused Zaidi rebels of seeking to overthrow his republican government.

 

The rebels reject the Yemeni government, which seized power in a 1962 coup known as the September 26 revolution, overthrowing the Zaidi imamate.