Scene of the bomb blast
Yemen's Defense Minister escaped an assassination attempt on Tuesday but at least 12 people died in the car bombing that followed the killing of al Qaeda's second-in-command in the country, government officials said.
Witnesses said the blast happened as Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad's motorcade left the prime minister's office in Sanaa after a cabinet meeting. Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtan told state television that seven security guards and five civilians were killed and 12 other people were wounded, reports Reuters.
One vehicle carrying security personnel was destroyed but the minister, who was travelling in a different armored-plated car, survived. Aides said he was unhurt and had told Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa he was safe.
"A booby-trapped car waited for the motorcade of the minister near the government offices and as soon as it moved, it exploded," a security source told Reuters. "A security car was totally destroyed and all its occupants were killed, but the minister survived because his car is armored."
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which followed the killing of the deputy leader of the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, Said al-Shehri, in an attack last week.
Al Qaeda blames the minister for leading a campaign that drove it from strongholds in southern Yemen, an area that has become of increasing concern to the United States in its campaign against Islamist militants.
Yemen claimed a major victory in its battle with al Qaeda this week with the death of Shehri, although public anger about U.S. drone attacks remains strong because of civilian deaths.
Shehri was wanted by Yemeni, Saudi and U.S. authorities over his role in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
A former inmate of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Shehri was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but after time on a Saudi militant rehabilitation program he escaped to Yemen and possibly had a role in a 2008 attack on the U.S. embassy.
Last year Yemen claimed it had killed him, only for it to emerge Shehri was still at large.
"Shehri's death is a painful blow to al Qaeda after the grievous losses it suffered in Abyan," state-owned daily al-Thawra said in a front page headline, referring to a province where the army had forced Islamist militants from this year.
Officials say it was the fourth assassination attempt against the defense minister since a new government was formed last December, after a power transfer deal under which long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down.