Last Updated: Wed Feb 29, 2012 21:26 pm (KSA) 18:26 pm (GMT)

Al-Qaeda claims deadly attack on a Yemen presidential palace

Families of the victims attend a funeral ceremony for Republican Guards killed in an al-Qaeda suicide car bomb attack. (Reuters)
Families of the victims attend a funeral ceremony for Republican Guards killed in an al-Qaeda suicide car bomb attack. (Reuters)

Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a suicide attack on a presidential palace in southeast Yemen that had killed 26 Republican Guards over the weekend, in a statement released on jihadist forums.

“The hero martyr Abu Muhjen al-Sayari attacked with his bomb-laden car Republican Guard troops inside the presidential palace in Mukalla, Hadramawt’s capital, killing nearly 30 officers and soldiers and wounding more than 50,” said the statement.

The attack was timed with “the last chapters of this farce of power transition in Yemen, by which the United States aims to steal the fruits of the revolt,” said the statement.

On Saturday a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle outside a presidential palace in the Hadramawt provincial capital Mukalla, overshadowing the swearing in ceremony of the first new president in Sana’a since 1978.

The attack came as Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi took the oath in the capital Sana’a to succeed strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The statement signed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) − al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen − said the operation was “a clear message to the U.S. ambassador” after alleged remarks he made “about restructuring the Yemeni army.”

“This is a message to say that the U.S. project in Yemen will not succeed and that our operations will target this project and its tools wherever they may be,” said the statement.

A Yemeni military official has said that Saturday’s attack bore the hallmark of Al-Qaeda and that the bomber “could be Mohammed al-Sayari,” a Saudi originally from Hadramawt.

The same source said that no high-ranking officials were in the palace when the bomber struck.

The palace is guarded by troops of the elite Republican Guard, who are under the command of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son Ahmed.

In an address to the nation straight after being sworn in to succeed Saleh, Hadi vowed to press the fight against al-Qaeda and restore security across his impoverished nation.

“It is a patriotic and religious duty to continue the battle against al-Qaeda,” the new president said.

“If we don’t restore security, the only outcome will be chaos.”

Yemen is the ancestral homeland of slain jihadist leader Osama bin Laden.

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