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2 Pinoy doctors among 25 reported killed in latest Yemen violence

December 5, 2013 7:58pm
(Updated 8:44 p.m.) SANAA — A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into Yemen's defense ministry Thursday, allowing gunmen to launch an assault on the complex which left 25 people, including two Filipino doctors, dead, officials said.

Aside from the two Filipinos, four other doctors — a Venezuelan and three Yemenis — were killed in the violence, an Agence France-Presse report said quoting medical sources. Five patients were also killed.

The doctors and patients were at a hospital that lies within the ministry's complex, which bore the brunt of the attack.

A separate Reuters report, citing a medical and a defense ministry source, said gunmen shot dead a Western doctor and a Filipina nurse in front of their colleagues in a hospital inside the defense ministry compound.

Philippine officials have yet to confirm the reports.

“(Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia) Amb. (Ezzedin) Tago informed me that this report of a Filipino casualty in the Sanaa attack is still being verified by our honorary Consul in Yemen,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez in a text message to GMA News Online.

The brazen attack on the sprawling complex follows a spate of hit-and-run strikes on military personnel and officials, as the country struggles to complete a thorny political transition.

The attacks in the capital and in the country's south have been blamed on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Washington regards as the jihadist network's most dangerous branch.

“At least 25 people have been killed,” said a security official, shortly after the defense ministry had put the death toll at 20.

“A car bomb driven by a suicide bomber forced its way into the western entrance of the ministry complex,” the security official told AFP.

“It was followed by another car whose occupants opened fire at the complex of buildings,” he said.

The attack comes as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser is heading a military delegation on a visit to the United States.

The ministry said gunmen occupied the hospital after the explosion, but security forces had regained control of the building.

“The assailants took advantage of some construction work that is taking place to carry out this criminal act,” it said without elaborating.

A security source said another apparently coordinated attack had been launched and a gunfight was raging outside the complex early afternoon.

State television aired gory footage of torn up bodies of what it said were suicide bombers, strewn in hospital's yard amid charred vehicles.

It also showed immense destruction within the hospital as well as floors stained with blood.

The channel broadcast appeals for blood donations at hospitals treating the wounded.

Plumes of smoke billowed across the ministry complex, situated on the edge of the Baba al-Yaman neighborhood, immediately after the blast and as a firefight erupted.

“I heard a series of explosions, and then an exchange of fire,” a wounded soldier told AFP.

President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi visited the hospital where his 90-year-old brother, Ahmed, was apparently an in-patient. He ordered a round-the-clock investigation into the attack, state television said.

Yemen has been going through a difficult political transition since veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in February 2012 after a year of deadly protests against his 33-year rule.

The transition aims to culminate in a new constitution and pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections slated for February 2014, but it still faces many hurdles.

There are growing demands for the secession of the formerly independent south, in addition to on-off fighting in the far north between Shiite rebels and hardline Sunnis.

A national dialogue that opened in March was originally due to close on September 18, but it is yet to conclude.

Yemen is also battling AQAP militants.

AQAP often attacks members of the security forces, despite suffering setbacks in a major army offensive last year and repeated US drone strikes targeting its commanders.

In an attempt to crack down on hit-and-run attacks, Yemeni authorities last week imposed a temporary ban on motorbikes in the capital to prevent shootings that have killed dozens of officials.

Two gunmen on a bike killed last week a Belarussian defence contractor and wounded another as they left a Sanaa hotel. — Agence France-Presse, with a report from Reuters and Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
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