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Daily Archives: September 18, 2008

16 killed in attack on US embassy in Yemen

Islamist militants attacked the US embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa with a car bomb and rockets yesterday, leaving 16 people dead, in the second strike on the high-security compound in six months.
The dead were six Yemeni soldiers, four civilians including an Indian and six attackers — one wearing an explosives belt, the interior ministry said, while a US official said there were no American casualties.
A shadowy group calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen claimed responsibility and threatened similar strikes against the British, Saudi and United Arab Emirates missions in the Yemeni capital.
The White House condemned the attack, with spokesman Gordon Johndroe saying it was "a reminder of the continuing threat we face from violent extremists both at home and abroad."
Witnesses said a fierce firefight erupted after gunmen raked Yemeni police guarding the heavily fortified embassy compound, before a suicide bomber blew up a car at the entrance, setting off a fireball.
A series of explosions followed as the compound came under rocket and small arms fire, they said, adding that the force of the bomb blast sent pieces of flesh a hundred metres away.
In March, a schoolgirl and a policeman were killed and 19 people wounded in a hail of mortar fire that US diplomats said targeted the embassy in Yemen, which has been battling a wave of attacks by Al-Qaeda militants for years.
After a rocket attack against a residential compound used by US oilmen in April, the US State Department ordered the evacuation of non-essential diplomatic staff, but the order was lifted last month.
The embassy said it would work with the Yemeni authorities to bring the perpetrators of the "heinous" attack to justice, adding that both its chancery and consular sections would remain closed until further notice.
"Today's events demonstrate that terrorist criminals will not hesitate to kill innocent citizens and those charged with protecting them in pursuit of their agenda of terror," it said.
Briton Trev Mason told CNN television he heard at least three big explosions around the embassy from his nearby residential compound.
"We heard the sounds of a heavy gunbattle going on. I looked out of my window and we saw the first explosion going off, a massive fireball very close to the US embassy," he said.
In April, the embassy told its employees they were not authorised to travel outside Sanaa and to avoid public places and urged Americans in the country to take "prudent security measures" and keep a low profile.
The statement from Islamic Jihad, which could not be authenticated, claimed it was behind the "martyr" operation.
"We will pursue the series of explosions according to our pre-established plan and (target) other embassies," it said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the group threatened to "blow up the embassies" of Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates "if our brothers are not freed" from Yemeni prisons.


US lawmakers vote to end 26-year ban on offshore drilling

US lawmakers Tuesday sought to overturn a decades-old ban on offshore drilling voting in favour of a new energy bill which has been spurred by spiralling oil prices.
The new bill, which was put forward by the majority Democrats in the House of Representatives, was approved by 236 votes to 189.
It would allow drilling off the US coastline up to a distance of between 80 to 160 kilometres overturning a 1981 federal moratorium.
Under the ban, states had been prohibited from allowing offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration, protecting virtually the entire Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and sections of the Gulf of Mexico.
As global fuel prices rocketed earlier this year, US President George W. Bush had lifted the drilling ban in July, urging lawmakers to swing behind him in the country's search for energy independence.
The bill is now due to go before the Senate, probably by next week. But it will have to win the support of at least 60 out of the 100 senators in order to be passed, which is unlikely given the lack of Republican support.
The bill says it aims: "To advance the national security interests of the United States by reducing its dependency on oil through renewable and clean, alternative fuel technologies."
It hopes to build "a bridge to the future through expanded access to federal oil and natural gas resources, revising the relationship between the oil and gas industry and the consumers who own those resources."
But it triggered a lively debate in the House with Republicans criticising the bill for failing to support moves to develop nuclear energy.
"Nobody's read the bill," said House minority Republican leader, John Boehner.
"And guess what? The Republican members who represent about 48 percent of the American people, we're not allowed to offer a substitute.
"We have no opportunity to offer our American energy plan that we've been on this floor talking about for three months nonstop."
The offshore drilling plan has become a hotly contested issue on the campaign trail in the 2008 White House race.
Amid falling demand and turmoil in the financial markets, oil prices on Tuesday tumbled to around 90 dollars a barrel, a seven-month low, after they reached historic highs earlier this year of around 145 dollars a barrel.
But experts say any new drilling will only start to impact on gas prices in 10 to 15 years.
And critics argue that lifting the drilling moratorium would jeopardise the environment and that production would take years to get up and running, and thus is not a realistic answer to the current crisis.
Bush in June cited the US dramatic shift to dependence on oil imports in recent decades as an economic and security risk.
"Some of that energy comes from unstable regions and unfriendly regimes. This makes us more vulnerable to supply shocks and price spikes beyond our control, and that puts both our economy and our security at risk," he said.