A car bomb has killed at least 12 people in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in an apparent assassination attempt on the country’s defence minister, officials say.
The blast took place outside the cabinet office in Sanaa on Tuesday, the Yemeni prime minister’s media office told Al Jazeera.
Mohammed Nasser Ahmad, the defence minister, escaped unharmed, but at least seven bodyguards and five civilians were killed, the PM’s office said. Another 14 people were wounded in the attack.
Smoke billowed from the area of the explosion, which was sealed off by police, while ambulances rushed to the scene, witnesses said. The area is host to several government departments, as well as the security headquarters.
The sound of gunfire was heard near the scene as ambulances were arriving, witnesses said.
The attack followed the confirmation last night from the Yemeni defence ministry that Saeed al-Shihri, the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, had been killed in eastern Yemen last week.
Hakim al-Masmari, the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera that Ahmad was a target due to his “leading the war against al-Qaeda” in Yemen.
“There are certain sides who could be behind this attack,” Masmari said.
“One is al-Qaeda, because the defence minister is responsible for the war against al-Qaeda. Secondly, [it could have been] those who are against President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, because [Ahmad] is his closest aide.”
Two other explosions were also reported in the Yemeni capital at about the same time as the car bombing, but it was not immediately clear if they resulted in any casualties.