SAN'A, Yemen – Yemen's president condemned the U.S. Embassy attack that killed 17 people including one American and vowed to pursue the "criminals" who carry out such acts, the country's news agency reported Friday.
In his first remarks since Wednesday's assault, President Ali Abdullah Saleh lashed out against terrorists, saying their actions are a result of "faulty upbringing."
"Security forces cannot prevent a terrorist from dying because he has decided to die, and this is a result of an ignorant and backward mind-set," the president was quoted by SABA as saying late Thursday in the town of Hodeida. "They offer no plans to serve the country; their plans are just death and destruction."
The attack on the gate of the U.S. Embassy by a half dozen gunmen and two vehicles packed with explosives killed six militants and 11 others including 18-year-old Susan Elbaneh of Lackawanna, N.Y., and her Yemeni husband. None of those killed or wounded were U.S. diplomats or embassy employees.
The attackers failed to breach the embassy walls, but it was the deadliest direct assault on a U.S. Embassy in a decade and was the closest extremists have come to penetrating the grounds of the low-slung building in several attempts.
There has been no claim of responsibility, but suspicion focused on Usama bin Laden's terror network. Police has rounded up 25 suspected militants with ties to Al Qaeda.
The attack came at a time of deep economic hardships in the Arab world's poorest country, widespread anti-American sentiment and a return of militants from Iraq's insurgency whom officials believe have been involved in recent attacks on tourists, foreign companies and oil facilities.
It also came a few weeks after the U.S. State Department allowed the return of nonessential embassy personnel and family members who had been ordered to leave after a mortar attack in March targeting the compound hit a neighboring girls high school instead, killing a Yemeni guard and wounding 13 girls.
In his speech, Saleh said such attacks harm not only foreigners but also the stability and security of the country.
"These criminal acts are against the stability and development of the country, and they are condemned and rejected," he added. "We shall pursue these criminals wherever they are until they are arrested and brought to justice."
Saleh said that the "terrorists" do not want any dealings with the West or with foreign banks.
"We still need to deal with the rest of the world," he added. "They [terrorists] want us to shut down the electricity and lights and go back to the past, to the candles, and not ride planes, ships or cars. These are totally backward mindsets."
The president urged Yemenis, including educators, the clergy and intellectuals, to reject extremism and spread the "noble values" of Islam.