SANAA, Yemen — A suicide attacker driving an explosives-laden car blew himself up Tuesday next to the passing convoy of Yemen’s defense minister, who escaped the attack unharmed, security officials and witnesses said.
The assailant detonated his car as Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed’s convoy passed by on the coastal highway in the southern city of Aden, witnesses said. The ministry confirmed the attack and said in a statement that Ahmed, who survived another attempt on his life last month that killed two of his bodyguards, was unharmed.
A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said at least 10 were wounded in the blast. It was not immediately clear whether senior military officials were among the wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Yemen’s military has been battling al-Qaida-linked militants who have taken advantage of the country’s ongoing political turmoil to seize control of towns and swaths of territory in the south.
In recent weeks, the military has launched an offensive to reclaim lost ground, but fierce fighting has not shaken the militants hold on the area and has left thousands of civilians displaced.
Yemen has been rocked by nearly daily mass protests demanding the ouster of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, plunging the impoverished nation into deep political crisis.
The turmoil has worried the United States and Europe, who fear Yemen has become a haven for Islamic militants, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington says is the most dangerous branch of the global terror network.
Attackers in the south also struck a major oil pipeline in the city of Marib, causing a disruption in oil exports, a local official in Marib said.
The pipeline carries crude from the region of Safer to Ras Eissa on the Red Sea coast for export. Halting the flow badly hurts Yemen’s already feeble economy.
Anti-Saleh tribesman attacked the same pipeline in March, also forcing a halt in oil production. Local officials said at that time that tribesmen prevented the Oil Ministry repairing the damage until July when when the pipeline was finally fixed and production resumed.