7 Filipinos dead in Yemen attack

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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(4th UPDATE) Al Qaeda claims the attack on the Yemeni defense complex, according to a statement they posted online

ATTACKED. A handout photo released by the Yemeni Defense Ministry shows burned cars after the explosives-packed car hit the country's Defense Ministry complex. Photo from EPA/Yemeni Defense Ministry

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Philippines on Friday, December 6, confirmed that 7 Filipino health workers died in a “barbaric” attack on the defense ministry in Yemen.

One of them is a doctor, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a media briefing.

Hernandez said the attack injured 11 other Filipinos. They sustained minor injuries “but were shaken and traumatized.”

He said one of them needed surgery after a head injury.

He refused to disclose the names of the Filipino victims until the Philippine government has informed their next of kin.

“We condemn this senseless and barbaric act, and we call on the Yemeni government to bring the masterminds to justice, and to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Filipinos and other foreigners in Yemen,” Hernandez said.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula later claimed the attack on the Yemeni defense complex, in a statement published on the Internet by its media arm.

The defense ministry complex was “stormed and attacked on Thursday… after the mujahedeen (holy fighters) proved that it accommodates drone control rooms and American experts,” it said on Twitter.

Up to 2,190 Filipinos live in Yemen, according to the latest government estimate.


Over 50 dead

The attack in Yemen happened on Thursday, December 5. Initial reports said 25 people died when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into Yemen’s defense ministry.

On Friday, however, the number of casualties rose to 52, according to Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee.

They were at a hospital that lies within the ministry’s complex, which bore the brunt of the attack.

Hernandez said the situation there “has already stabilized” as of Friday, with Yemeni security forces “now in control of the complex.”

He said the Philippine government is checking if other Filipinos died in the attack and that it is arranging the victims’ repatriation, Hernandez added.

Malacañang also gave assurances the government is working to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Yemen.

‘Crisis alert level 1’

The DFA said Yemen has been under crisis alert level 1 since October 2012.

Hernandez said the government declares this alert level “when there is internal disturbance in a country.” Under this alert level, the government advises Filipinos “to take necessary precautions.”

The brazen attack on the 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. 

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. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com