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Rocket fired at British embassy vehicle in Yemen

Rocket attack targets senior British diplomat; Separate incident at foreign oil compound.

October 6, 2010 4:17 by

A rocket attack in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday targeted a vehicle carrying the deputy chief of the British mission in Yemen and a gunman opened fire at an Austrian-owned oil and gas firm, killing a Frenchman.

The shootings could be one of a number of high profile al Qaeda attacks targeting Yemen’s government, which earlier this year declared war on the group’s Yemeni arm after it claimed a failed attack on a U.S.-bound airliner in December.

Britain’s Foreign Office in London confirmed there had been an attack involving a British embassy vehicle in Sanaa and said one British embassy staff member in the vehicle suffered a minor injury.

“The vehicle was on its way to the British Embassy, with five Embassy staff on board,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

“One member of staff suffered minor injuries and is undergoing treatment, all others were unhurt. We are informing their families at the moment.

A security source in Yemen said three Yemeni bystanders were wounded. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh later met the British ambassador to discuss the incident.

The Frenchman died in a shooting incident inside the compound of oil and gas group OMV, France’s Foreign Ministry confirmed. A security source said a guard had opened fire, and government forces subsequently disarmed the gunman.

A spokeswoman for Vienna-based OMV, which has operated in Yemen since 2003, said the situation was now under control.

An al Qaeda suicide bomber attacked the British ambassador’s convoy in April, killing himself and injuring three others.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said it was behind that attack, accusing the British envoy of leading a war on Muslims in the peninsula on Britain’s behalf.

Oil-exporter Yemen is beset by problems. It faces rising al Qaeda militancy and a surge in violence in its secessionist leaning south.

Yemen also has a shaky truce with northern Shi’ite rebels, reached in February to end a civil war that has raged on and off since 2004 and drew in neighbouring Saudi Arabia last year after rebels seized some Saudi land.

More than 40 percent of its 23 million people live on less than $2 a day, and concerns about instability and widespread corruption have crimped growth and made unemployment worse.

Yemen’s Western allies and neighbouring Saudi Arabia have long feared a resurgent al Qaeda wing could take advantage of rising insecurity and weak central control to use Yemen as a base for destabilising attacks in the region and beyond.

The United States has been helping Sanaa out in the crackdown, fearing its campaign against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan had prompted the group’s hub to shift to Yemen.

Al Qaeda and the Yemeni government have clashed for many years, but the group’s operations have typically focused on Western targets.

An al Qaeda attack on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa in 2008 killed 16 people, including six attackers.

(By Mohamed Sudam. Additional reporting by Christian Gutlederer in Vienna, Writing by Samia Nakhoul; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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