Yemen’s defense minister survived an apparent assassination attempt Tuesday when a car bomb exploded near a building he was leaving, the state-run Saba news agency said.
Eleven people were killed when the bomb exploded in the center of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, including six of the minister’s guards, two government officials said. The blast happened outside the prime minister’s office as Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed was leaving, authorities said.
The attack targeted the senior leadership of Yemen’s transitional government, a government official said. Two homes close to the prime minister’s office were damaged and roads leading to the government building were closed. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
The bombing comes one day after Yemeni forces said they killed Said al-Shihri, second in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. If DNA testing confirms his death, it “would be a deeply significant blow against AQAP,” CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan in April described AQAP as “very, very dangerous” and “the most active operational franchise” of al Qaeda.
The group was behind the so-called underwear bomb attempt on a U.S.-bound international flight on Christmas Day 2009 and an effort to smuggle bombs in printer cartridges onto U.S.-bound cargo planes in 2010.
Al-Shihri, who was once held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, was killed Monday in an operation in Hadramawt Valley, Saba reported.
The unrest in Yemen began in 2011 as the population became caught up in the Arab Spring uprisings that swept North Africa and the Middle East.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s longtime president, stepped down this year after more than a year of clashes between his supporters and opponents.