A suicide attacker driving a car laden with explosives attacked the Iranian ambassador's residence in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, killing three people, Yemeni security officials say.

Hossein Niknam, the Iranian diplomat, was not harmed in Wednesday's attack, which occurred in Sanaa's diplomatic district of Hada and heavily damaged several buildings in the area, the officials said.

Yemen's Interior Ministry said the victims included one of the embassy guards and two transpassers, a woman and a child, adding that that four others were injured, one of them critically.

Ansar al-Sharia, the main arm of al-Qaeda in Yemen, claimed the responsibility for the attack.

The group said on Twitter they had been able to breach "strict security measures" imposed by police and the Houthi militia before setting off the bomb shortly after 9am local time (0600GMT).

Houthis allied with Iran took control of Sanaa in September and fanned out across the country, clashing with Sunni tribesmen and also with Yemen's local branch of al-Qaeda.

The US and Yemen's Sunni Gulf neighbours suspect Iran is meddling in the Arabian Peninsula state and there are fears of sectarian warfare spreading to other countries of the region.

However, Iran denies it is interfering in Yemeni affairs.

Iranian diplomats have been targeted in Yemen in the past. One Iranian diplomat is still being held hostage by suspected fighters and another was killed this year when he resisted a kidnapping attempt.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies