Al-Qaeda behind Yemen suicide blast?

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said initial investigations into the July 2 suicide-bombing that killed seven Spanish tourists indicate that al-Qaeda was behind the attack. Moratinos said the information was provided by his Yemeni counterpart Abu Bakr Abduallah al Quirbi, whose government has given Spain authority to conduct its own investigation parallel to that of the Yemen government.

The attack was in Marib, where a militant drive a car packed with explosives into a tourism all-terrain vehicle leaving the famous Moon Temple or Mahram Bilqis, legendary home of the Belquis, the Queen of Sheba. (Xinhua, DPA, July 4)

President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Yemen had received warnings last week of an impending attack. “The security apparatus had information about four days ago but did not know exactly when or where this operation would be carried out,” Saleh said. “Security measures were taken around sensitive sites such as oil installations but we did not think of this temple.” He offered a $75,500 reward for information leading to the capture of militants linked to the attack. Saleh was quick to reassure foreign capital. “This incident is a blow to the national economy and will affect tourism but should not affect investment,” he said.

An unnamed “security source” said the bombing was apparently masterminded by al-Qaeda militants still on the run after escaping from a Sanaa prison. At least three of the 23 al-Qaeda suspects who tunnelled out of the prison remain at large, after the others turned themselves in or were arrested or killed. One of those still at large is Jamal Ahmad al-Badawi, convicted and sentenced to death for the USS Cole blast. (The account from Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News says the jailbreak happened in “February last year,” but al-Badawi and ten others actually escaped in April 2003.)

The fortified US embassy in Sanaa cancelled all travel outside the capital and warned its citizens against travel to Marib. The US condemned the bombing, calling it “yet another example of a vicious and cowardly attack against innocent civilians.” (Gulf Daily News, July 4)

See our last posts on Yemen and al-Qaeda.