British official among wounded in Yemen rocket attack

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A British official was among at least three people wounded in a rocket attack on a diplomatic car in Sanaa on Wednesday, less than six months after a bomber targeted Britain's ambassador here.

Yemeni police said that three people were wounded in Wednesday's attack on the vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser, which suffered damage including a broken windshield. Police did not say if the car suffered a direct hit.

Britain's foreign ministry reported that one embassy staff member was wounded. It was not immediately clear if the staffer was one of the three included in the police tally.

"We can confirm an attack involving a British embassy vehicle in Sanaa this morning. There was one minor casualty among British embassy staff," a Foreign Office spokesman said in London.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the blast was "a reminder that we have some way to go" in efforts to improve security in Yemen, which faces a growing threat from Al-Qaeda.

"All our diplomats there are remaining at home or in the embassy," he told BBC radio. "It is a difficult and dangerous place to work."

Police deployed heavily around the British embassy and blocked roads leading to it, an AFP correspondent said.

The attack took place on Khawlan Street, about three kilometres (two miles) from the British mission, which is regularly used by embassy personnel.

The vehicle was immediately removed from the scene.

The travel advice section of the British embassy's website noted the attack and warned against "all but essential travel" to Yemen "due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and tribal violence."

On April 26, a suicide bomber hurled himself at the British ambassador's two-car convoy in a Sanaa street as it neared the British embassy compound.

The suicide bomber, whose body was torn to pieces, wounded three bystanders and damaged a police escort car as he threw himself at the convoy and detonated his explosive belt. Ambassador Timothy Torlot escaped unharmed.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group's local branch, later claimed the attack, which saw the embassy closed for two weeks.

Britain's embassy in Sanaa also closed for three days in January due to the threat of an attack by Al-Qaeda, the mission said.

In December 2009, the Yemeni defence ministry's news website said the country's authorities had dismantled an Al-Qaeda cell that "was aimed at infiltrating and blowing up targets, including the British embassy."

And in October 2000, then-foreign secretary Robin Cook said an attacker threw a bomb over the wall of the British embassy, an attack that did not result in casualties.

Britain, along with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, co-chaired a September 24 meeting in New York City of the "Friends of Yemen" international support group.

At the meeting, Britain warned of "massive dangers" to world security should Yemen become a failed state.

"The underpinning issue (of help to Yemen) is the protection of the stability of the state overall and let's be honest: there are massive dangers to the country, the region and the wider world if ever Yemen becomes failed state," Alan Duncan, Britain's international development minister, said.

Yemen, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland, faces a growing threat from AQAP.

Sanaa has intensified its operations against AQAP amid mounting pressure from Washington after the militant group claimed responsibility for a botched attack on US-bound airliner on Christmas Day last year.

© 2010 AFP

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