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25 arrested over deadly U.S. Embassy attack

At least 25 militants with suspected links to al-Qaida have been arrested in connection with Wednesday's deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital, a security official said on Thursday.
Image: Two US Embassy employees inspect damaged vehicles in front of the main entrance of the US Embassy in the capital San'a, Yemen
Two U.S. Embassy employees inspect damaged vehicles in front of complex's main gate in San'a, Yemen, on Thursday.Hussein Malla / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

At least 25 militants with suspected links to al-Qaida have been arrested in connection with Wednesday's deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital, a senior security official said on Thursday.

The Yemeni official said the 25 have been rounded up from various parts of Yemen over the past 24 hours and were being questioned by Yemeni and U.S. investigators.

It is not unusual for authorities in Yemen, a key partner in the U.S.-led war on terror but for years an al-Qaida stronghold, to round up a large number of suspects in the wake of a terror attack.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said a U.S. team, possibly from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was on its way to Yemen to take charge of the investigation.

The State Department on Thursday confirmed that Susan Elbaneh, 18, a U.S. citizen from Lackawanna, N.Y., was among those killed in the attack.

'Standard procedure'
U.S. Embassy spokesman Ryan Gliha would only say that it is "standard procedure" to dispatch an FBI team in cases of attacks against U.S. interests abroad.

The heavily guarded embassy is located in the affluent Dhahr Himyar district, a residential area dotted with five-star hotels and other embassies.

Wednesday's attack killed 16 people but failed to breach the compound's walls. None of those killed or wounded were U.S. diplomats or embassy employees.

The attackers fired automatic weapons and set off grenades and a car bomb. Six attackers, six Yemeni guards and four civilians were killed.

Snipers hidden across the street fired on emergency personnel rushing to the scene.

The attackers, some dressed in army uniforms, were stopped short of the compound's walls by guards and massive security barriers, but civilians waiting in line for visas outside the embassy were among the casualties.

American killedElbaneh, the American killed in the attack, was recently wed in Yemen in an arranged marriage. She and her Yemeni husband were killed as they stood outside the embassy.

They were apparently there to do paperwork for the husband's move to the U.S. when the attackers struck, said Elbaneh's brother, Ahmed. Elbaneh's family was gathering at her father Ali's house Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. counts Yemen as an ally in the war on terrorism. But American officials have long been frustrated over what is seen as a "revolving door" policy toward al-Qaida militants by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government.

Yemen has let some convicted militants go free after promising to refrain from violence.

In 2006, a group of 23 militants escaped from a high-security prison, including 10 figures convicted in al-Qaida's 2000 bombing of the USS Cole destroyer in Aden harbor. There were widespread reports of security officials' collusion in the escape, and experts say Yemen's security and intelligence services are riddled with militant sympathizers.

State control is weak in the impoverished country — the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden — tribes are strong and many mountainous rural areas are lawless, giving ample room for militant training camps.

The U.S. Embassy has been attacked four times since 2003, most recently in March when a volley of mortars targeting the compound hit a neighboring girls high school instead, killing a Yemeni guard and wounding dozens of girls.

Just last month, the State Department allowed the return of nonessential embassy personnel and family members who had been ordered to leave after the mortars.