Suicide Attack in Yemen Misses British Envoy

The British ambassador in Yemen survived an attack Monday morning by a suicide bomber who detonated his explosive belt as the ambassador’s convoy was passing, witnesses said.

Police search for forensic evidence at the sceneThe ambassador, Timothy Torlot, was unhurt, said Chantel Mortimer, a spokeswoman for the British Embassy. There did not appear to be anyone injured aside from the bomber himself, according to the witnesses at the scene.

Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch has claimed credit for numerous assaults on foreign embassies in Sana, including a suicide car bomb attack on the well-fortified American embassy in September 2008 that left 16 people dead, including six attackers. Earlier this year, the group threatened to carry out a major attack in the capital.

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen gained new global attention after claiming credit for a failed Christmas Day attempt to bomb an American airliner as it was approaching Detroit. The group became more active last year after combining with the Saudi branch of al Qaeda and attracting foreign fighters.

The Yemeni government began cooperating with the American military last fall on a newly aggressive campaign of airstrikes and ground assaults against the group. Some of its members appear to have been killed, although it is not clear whether any were top leaders.

The attempted bombing Monday took place a few hundred yards from the British Embassy, which sits on a hill overlooking the capital, across from the Movenpick Hotel, a base for many foreign visitors to Sana. There are other embassies in the area, which is generally well guarded.

The bomber appears to have been standing near a compound called the Berlin Garden and detonated his explosive belt as the ambassador was passing on his way to work in an armored convoy, witnesses said. Body parts were scattered over a wide area.

Khaled al Hammadi contributed reporting from Sana, Yemen.