The State Department says this attack has "all the hallmarks of Al Qaeda," and it certainly looks that way. First, Yemen has long been an Al Qaeda hotbed--in fact, it's the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden. Second, like past Al-Qaeda attacks (9/11, Madrid, 7/7, Amman, etc.), this one was closely coordinated: a car bomb, followed by assaults with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. A group called Islamic Jihad in Yemen is claiming responsibility. It's unlcear thus far whether the group has any affiliation to al-Qaeda. But it seems pretty clear that Al-Qaeda had a hand in today's events in some capacity. Here's more, from CBN News:
Suspected militants armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and at least one suicide car bomb assaulted the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday. The coordinated attack killed 16 people, including six assailaints, officials said.
The U.S. said no Americans were hurt.
Explosions and Heavy Gunfire
Multiple explosions rang out outside the heavily-guarded facility, and gunfire raged for at least 10 minutes at the concrete checkpoints that ring the compound. The dead included six attackers, six Yemeni guards and four civilians, the state news agency SABA reported.
It was the deadliest attack on a compound that has been targeted four times in recent years by bombings, mortars and shootings.
Yemen has a checkered recent history:
In March 2002, a Yemeni man lobbed a sound grenade into the embassy grounds a day after Vice President Dick Cheney made a stop for talks with officials at San'a airport. The attacker was sentenced to 10 years in prison but the sentence was later reduced to seven years.
In 2003, two people were fatally shot and dozens more were injured when police clashed with demonstrators trying to storm the embassy when tens of thousands rallied against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
This year has also seen mortar attacks near the Italian Embassy and a bombing on a compound housing foreigners, neither of which caused casualties.
Washington considers Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh an ally against terrorism, ever since al-Qaeda's 2000 bombing of the USS Cole destroyer in the port of Aden, which killed 17 American sailors. A similar attack on a French oil tanker two years later killed one person.
But the relationship has frequently been rocky, with American officials grumbling over lax Yemeni detention policies for militants.
A group of 23 al-Qaeda militants escaped from a high-security San'a prison in 2006, amid reports of collusion between security officials and the militants. The U.S. security think-tank Stratfor said in a statement Wednesday that Yemen's security and intelligence services are deepy infiltrated by militants.
Saleh has also pursued a program letting some militants go free after promising not to carry out attacks.
Look for Yemen to continue to emerge as both a destination and breeding ground for Al-Qaeda. The country has a real "Wild West," lawless feel in some parts, just like other Al-Qaeda hotspots. Somalia and Pakistan's tribal regions are the two most egregious examples of Al-Qaeda finding shelter and local hospitality in un-governable areas.