A Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed credit for an explosion that occurred early this morning in the diplomatic Hadda section of Sana’a outside the residence of the Iranian ambassador to Yemen. The timing of the attack, which occurred the week after the ambassador, Hossein Niknam, presented his credentials to Yemeni authorities, suggests that AQAP had been waiting for his arrival in the Yemeni capital.
AQAP stated that its fighters parked a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) outside the ambassador’s house and detonated the explosive at precisely 9:02 a.m. While official reports suggested that one guard and two pedestrians were killed, the AQAP statement claimed that an unspecified number of people were wounded and killed in the attack, “including Iranians working at the embassy and its guards, in addition to the destruction of large sections of the residence.”
The AQAP statement boasted that “despite the security precautions put in place by the Yemeni regime forces and the Houthi political committees, the mujahideen managed to park the explosive laden vehicle and detonate it.” Additionally, the statement claimed that the explosion was so strong that it shattered the windows of nearby buildings allegedly owned by Yemeni officials and diplomats.
Iran has been accused of supporting the Houthis, northern rebels who hail from Yemen’s Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam, since a civil war between the insurgents and Yemeni military forces erupted in 2004. Some indications of this alleged support include the Yemeni military’s October 2009 seizure of an Iranian ship carrying anti-tank weapons, as well as a January 2013 joint US-Yemeni military operation that captured another ship containing a cache of weapons. Despite Iranian denials, markings on the confiscated weapons indicated they came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. US officials reported that the weapons were headed to the Shiite insurgents in Yemen’s northern provinces.
AQAP has capitalized on these suspicions of Iranian involvement and has made efforts to portray itself as the champion of Yemen’s Sunni tribes in the face of the Shiite Houthi onslaught. The terrorist group routinely refers to the Houthis as “Iranian agents,” and it has framed the insurgency as an Iranian political and sectarian plot to extend Shiite control throughout the Sunni world.