Ambassador Torlot

Suicide bomber attacks UK ambassador’s convoy in Yemen

Hugh Macleod in Sana’a and Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian, April 26, 2010

The British ambassador to Yemen escaped assassination this morning when a suicide bomber attacked his security convoy as it drove through a crowded street near the embassy.

The ambassador, Tim Torlot, was unharmed, but one person – believed to be the bomber – was killed in the blast. Two local men and a woman were injured.

Torlot’s armoured car was passing through a poor neighbourhood in the eastern part of the capital, Sana’a, when the explosion occurred.

Witnesses described the suspected bomber as a young men dressed in a tracksuit and trainers who was waiting by the side of a busy road for the convoy to pass.

The explosion blew out the windows of nearby houses, and left black scorch marks on a cement barrier in the road. The pavements were spattered with bloodstains.

Hamdi Amer, a 24-year-old student, said he was woken by the explosion, which shook his house shortly before 8am. “I went down on to the street and saw the shin bone of the bomber. It was disgusting. It’s a kind of terrorism. They must have brainwashed him.”

Yemeni authorities have launched an investigation into what Abdel Karim Aryani, a long-time adviser to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, called “one of the most serious acts of terrorism to have happened in Yemen”.

“To target an ambassador who was under the protection of the Yemeni government makes the damage to Yemen immeasurable,” said Aryani . “We didn’t need this attack to tell us that al-Qaida has not left Yemen and that we must continue in our effort to track and confront them.”

The Foreign Office (FCO) said the embassy has been closed to the public and it warned all British nationals in Yemen to “keep a low profile and remain vigilant”.

Yemen has been the focus of international concern about al-Qaida activity after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man suspected of attempting to blow up a US-bound airliner on Christmas Day, was reported to have told FBI investigators that al-Qaida members in Yemen supplied the bomb.

Nigerian-born Abdulmutallab’s family have suggested that he became radicalised during a visit to Yemen last year. He was supposedly studying Arabic there but is believed to have made contact with some of the estimated 300 al-Qaida militants based in the country.

Abdulmutallab is suspected to have been influenced by the US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi while in the country. US officials have accused Awlaqi of having links with Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is suspected of shooting dead 13 people at a Texas military base in November. Awlaqi remains in hiding.

In January, Torlot described al-Qaida as posing a “severe threat” in Yemen, before a conference convened by the UK to discuss problems facing the country.

The US president, Barack Obama, said he would not send troops to Yemen in the weeks following the attempted Christmas Day bombing, while the Yemeni government has insisted it can defeat al-Qaida alone, with US financial help and intelligence support.

The British embassy in Yemen closed for two days in January for security reasons, along with those of the US and France.

Yemen’s government has recently vowed to work with the US to tackle hundreds of al-Qaida fighters who have built up strongholds in the country’s remote regions.

The FCO website warns Britons against travelling to Yemen, “due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and tribal violence”.

[and this just in from Yemen’s Saba News Agency:]

Failed attack suicide bomber’s identity unveiled

SANA’A, April 26 (Saba) – The security bodies have revealed the identity of suicide bomber who attacked the convoy of the British ambassador in Yemen, a source in the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The bomber was a 22-year old from Taiz governorate called “Othman Ali al-Selwi”, the source said, adding he is a high school student.

In addition to the death of the attacker, none was killed, the source said, adding that the attack resulted on injuring three citizens slightly, one of them is women. The injuries were admitted to the hospital.

The source affirmed the UK ambassador to Yemen Tim Torlot and his escorts survived the failed suicide bomb attack, which was taken place early today, Monday.

Mr Torlot, 52, became UK Ambassador to Yemen in 2007.

The ministry reported a suicide bomber, wearing a sport suit, detonated an explosive vest at the ambassador’s convoy at the Berlin Park in Noqum district.

The ministry also said that the parts of the suicide bomber’s body were seen, with his head found after three houses from the explosion site. The head was found on the roof of a house.

The attack bore al-Qaeda hallmarks and an investigation is underway, it added.