Car bomb at U.S. embassy kills 16 (Yemen)

A car bomb set off a series of explosions outside the heavily fortified U.S. embassy in Yemen on Wednesday and a Yemeni security source said at least 16 people, including six attackers, were killed.

A U.S. embassy official confirmed that the blasts were caused by a car bomb and that there were reports of casualties.

“This morning a car exploded at the main gate of the embassy in Sanaa. There was an initial explosion and several secondary explosions,” a U.S. embassy spokesman told Reuters by telephone.

“We do have reports of casualties. Right now, I cannot confirm the number, nor the nationality nor the severity of the casualties.”

A group calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen claimed responsibility for the bombing and threatened attacks on other embassies including those of Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

It had threatened in a previous statement on Tuesday to launch a series of attacks unless the Yemeni government met its demands for the release of several members from jail.

“We, the organization of Islamic Jihad in Yemen declare our responsibility for the suicide attack on the American embassy in Sanaa,” the statement read.

“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.”

Smoke was seen rising from the heavily fortified U.S. compound in Sanaa and ambulances and fire engines raced to the scene, which was cordoned off by police, witnesses said.

The security source said that six attackers and four bystanders were killed, while the rest were Yemeni security forces.

Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, has grappled with a spate of al Qaeda attacks this year, including one on the U.S. embassy, another near the Italian mission and others on Western tourists.

An al Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility in March for a mortar attack that missed the U.S. embassy but wounded 13 girls at a nearby school.

The United States ordered non-essential staff to leave Yemen in April, a day after an attack on a residential compound.

The Yemeni government joined the U.S.-led war against terrorism following the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities in 2001.

It has jailed dozens of militants in connection with bombings of Western targets and clashes with authorities, but is still viewed in the West as a haven for Islamist militants.

The government of the poor Arab country has also been fighting Shi’ite rebels in the northern province of Saada since 2004 and faced protests against unemployment and inflation.

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Saudi Arabia wishes you all a happy Passover!

Which is interesting considering Judaism (and every other non-Islamic religion) is banned there.

Also worth noting, the official government policy openly proclaimed that Jews were forbidden from entering the country.

I am very interested in a statement made by Dr Alyami of The Center for Democracy and Human Rights (in Saudi Arabia. He stated“the struggle against slavery may have started thousands of years ago [but] it never stops and must not until we are all free from fear, oppression, hate and looming ideological threats.” Such a statement coming from Saudi Arabia is indeed worthy of special mention. Saudi Arabia is renowned worldwide for its treatment of women – women cannot drive, they cannot leave the home unaccompanied by a man, they have to seek permission to travel out of the country by a man, they have to abide by strict dress codes etc. In short, Saudi Arabia is not the most liberal and free country. Maybe coming from the West I have simply taken the statement on pure face value. In applying freedom of oppression my background gives such a term a relative meaning.

Could it be that the inequality between men and women in their culture is so institutionally oppressed that they do not recognise it as such?

Distinct from the treatment of women,  Saudi Arabia is renowned for its religious apartheid. Testifying before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on June 4, 2002, in a briefing entitled “Human Rights in Saudi Arabia: The Role of Women”, Ali Al-Ahmed, Director of the Saudi Institute, stated:

Saudi Arabia is a glaring example of religious apartheid. The religious institutions from government clerics to judges, to religious curricula, and all religious instructions in media are restricted to the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, adhered to by less than 40% of the population. The Saudi government communized Islam, through its monopoly of both religious thoughts and practice. Wahhabi Islam is imposed and enforced on all Saudis regardless of their religious orientations. The Wahhabi sect does not tolerate other religious or ideological beliefs, Muslim or not. Religious symbols by Muslims, Christians, Jewish and other believers are all banned. The Saudi embassy in Washington is a living example of religious apartheid. In its 50 years, there has not been a single non-Sunni Muslim diplomat in the embassy. The branch of Imam Mohamed Bin Saud University in Fairfax, Virginia instructs its students that Shia Islam is a Jewish conspiracy.

According to Freedom House’s 2006 report,

The Saudi Ministry of Education Islamic studies textbooks … continue to promote an ideology of hatred that teaches bigotry and deplores tolerance. These texts continue to instruct students to hold a dualistic worldview in which there exist two incompatible realms – one consisting of true believers in Islam … and the other the unbelievers – realms that can never coexist in peace. Students are being taught that Christians and Jews and other Muslims are “enemies” of the true believer… The textbooks condemn and denigrate Shiite and Sufi Muslims’ beliefs and practices as heretical and call them “polytheists”, command Muslims to hate Christians, Jews, polytheists and other “unbelievers”, and teach that the Crusades never ended, and identify Western social service providers, media outlets, centers for academic studies, and campaigns for women’s rights as part of the modern phase of the Crusades.

For a country to make such grand statements with such a horrible track record is bewildering. I hope there is sincerity in their words which they begin to work towards.