2008 attack on the American Embassy in Yemen
|2008 Yemeni American embassy attack|
Map of Yemen showing Sana'a
|Date||September 17, 2008
9:15 a.m. (UTC+3)
|Car bomb, rocket attack, ambush|
|Deaths||12 (Plus 6 attackers)|
|At least 16|
|Motive||Terrorism, to provoke the release of imprisoned extremist members |
The 2008 American Embassy attack in Yemen in Sana'a, Yemen on September 17, 2008, resulted in 18 deaths and 16 injuries. Six attackers, six Yemeni police, and six civilians were killed. This attack was the second occurring in the same year, after a mortar attack earlier in 2008 on March 18 missed the embassy and instead hit a nearby girls' school. Islamic Jihad of Yemen, an al Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack began at 09:15 a.m. local time (06:15 a.m. UTC) when attackers dressed as policemen, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, automatic rifles, grenades, and car bombs, attacked the outer security ring at the entrance of the main gate from a car. The embassy, located in the Dhahr Himyar district of Sana'a, is located 250 meters (820 feet) from this security entrance. A 20-minute battle ensued between the terrorists and the embassy security force, during which some embassy security forces were fired upon by snipers from across the road. In the midst of the battle, a car bomb exploded at a second security ring of concrete blocks in an unsuccessful attempt to blow a hole in the wall. Up to five explosions may have occurred during the attack.
Six members of the Yemeni security forces, six attackers (one of whom wore an explosives belt), and six civilians were killed in the attack. Though no Americans working at the embassy were injured or harmed during the attack, Susan el-Baneh, a newly married woman from New York City, was killed along with her Yemeni husband while waiting outside to fill out paperwork. At least sixteen people, mostly women and children, were treated at two hospitals for injuries.
Lackawanna, New York Yemeni-American Susan el-Baneh (Elbaneh), age 18, wed a Yemeni in August. She went to Yemen partly to help her new Yemeni husband obtain approval to enter the United States, and both spouses were in a line of civilians waiting to enter the embassy when the attackers opened fire. The Associated Press said Susan Elbaneh was a cousin of Jaber A. Elbaneh, who is on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorism suspects. Elbaneh's family said she had no relationship with her cousin and her sister Shokey Elbaneh commented "Like the people killed in 9/11, people killed in terrorist acts all over the place, we're the same victims."
Responsibility and arrests
The Islamic Jihad of Yemen, an al Qaeda affiliate, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The group also threatened future attacks against other embassies, including those of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
It released a statement: "We will carry out the rest of the series of attacks on the other embassies that were declared previously, until our demands are met by the Yemeni government." Meanwhile, on September 18, 2008, Yemeni authorities arrested 30 suspects allegedly connected to Al-Qaeda. Foreign Minister Abou Bakr al-Qurbi said: "The attack on the U.S. Embassy was retaliation by al-Qaeda for the measures taken by the government to fight the terrorists." United States Department of State spokesman Sean McCormack said that "the multi-phased attack bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda."
On November 1, a Yemeni security official said the attackers had links to al-Qaida. He added that the United Nations had raised its security level in Yemen in response to such threats. He also elaborated that the six Yemeni men who carried out the attack trained at al-Qaida camps in the southern Yemeni provinces of Hadramut and Marib, while three of them had recently returned from fighting in Iraq.
In June 2001, the embassy was closed temporarily after militants were found with explosives and maps of the area, around the embassy.
On January 26, 2009, three gunmen in a car opened fire at a checkpoint near the embassy. Security forces chased them and managed to stop the car. All three men were arrested and there were no injuries.
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