Explosions Rock U.S. Embassy in Yemen; 16 Killed

Suspected militants armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and at least one homicide car bomb attacked the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital Wednesday, killing six Yemeni guards and four civilians, officials said. Six of the attackers were also killed in what the U.S. called a failed attempt to storm the compound.

No American personnel were reported injured in the series of explosions at the embassy's front gate, which were followed by heavy gunfire that lasted about 10 minutes.

Ryan Gliha, a spokesman for the embassy, told The Associated Press by telephone that several nearby homes were badly damaged. Gliha, speaking from inside the large, heavily guarded compound, could not immediately say whether the embassy suffered any damage.

The Islamic Jihad of Yemen claimed responsibility, saying they did it as result of U.S.-Yemen ties and cooperation. Internet forums also cited religious leaders that in the last few weeks called for jihad to start in Yemen.

Click here for photos.

U.S. State Department Sean McCormack said that the sophisticated attack "bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda attack."

One source told FOX News the apparent attack on the embassy in Yemen did not "happen in a vacuum." In the last two months, Yemen has broken up or arrested members of a significant number of cells — some related to Al Qaeda.

A senior U.S. official earlier said the bombings were carefully orchestrated, with sniper fire and some attackers apparently dressed as soldiers.

President Bush said the attack is a reminder that "we are at war with extremists."

In mid-August, the U.S. Embassy applauded the series of recent arrests, according to the official news agency in Yemen.

On Monday, security forces arrested five operatives of Al Qaeda in Yemen in the al-Qatten district of southeastern Hadramout province, a security source told FOX News.

Sources said that the five militants identified with Al Qaeda were armed but surrendered.

This arrest came days after security forces carried out a big operation on Aug. 11 against an Al Qaeda cell in Tarim of Hadramout, killing five militants including Hamza al-Qaeti, who is said to be the mastermind of Al Qaeda in Yemen, and arrested two other operatives. Three policemen were also killed in the Tarim attack.

The embassy in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, has been targeted by militants at least four times since 2003, most recently in March when mortar rounds crashed into a girls' school next door, killing a Yemeni security guard and wounding more than a dozen girls.

The Yemeni guards killed Wednesday were assigned to sentry duty outside the embassy by the Interior Ministry. The civilians who died in the explosion were waiting to enter the compound, the embassy said.

They included three Yemenis and one Indian national, said the Yemeni security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Regional TV news networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya showed shaky footage of the embassy's area following the blasts, with a heavy cloud of black smoke rising from a spot just beyond concrete blocks painted yellow.

The embassy is ringed by two layers of these blocks, according to San'a residents familiar with the area.

A medical official, meanwhile, said at least seven Yemeni nationals were wounded and taken to the city's Republican hospital. They are residents of a nearby housing compound and included children, he said.

Both the security and medical officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to the media.

Explosions and heavy gunfire were heard near the embassy in the eastern section of San'a and police cordoned off the area, according to a government security official and an AP reporter at the scene.

The AP reporter said ambulance cars rushed to the area and hundreds of heavily armed security forces were deployed around the compound. Police kept reporters well away from the immediate area, he said.

The regional networks also reported that one of the embassy's buildings caught fire. The AP reporter said a fire truck was seen headed to the scene, but Gliha, the embassy spokesman, denied the report.

They also reported that gunmen in police uniforms arrived at the scene soon after the first blast and immediately fired at the embassy guards. This could not be independently confirmed.

Al Qaeda has an active presence in Yemen despite government efforts to destroy it.

In March 2002, a Yemeni man lobbed a sound grenade into the U.S. Embassy grounds a day after Vice President Dick Cheney made a stop for talks with officials at San'a airport.

The attacker, who allegedly sought to retaliate against what he called American bias toward Israel, was sentenced to 10 years in prison but the sentence was later reduced to seven years.

In March 2003, two people were fatally shot and dozens more were injured when police clashed with demonstrators trying to storm the embassy when tens of thousands rallied against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In 2006, a gunman opened fire outside the embassy but was shot and arrested by Yemeni guards. The gunman, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, claimed he wanted to kill Americans.

The group was blamed for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 American sailors and an attack on a French oil tanker that killed one person two years later.

FOX News' Catherine Herridge and the Associated Press contributed to this report.