Two suicide car bombers and 12 gunmen stormed Yemeni defense ministry complex in the capital Sanaa on Thursday morning, killing at least 52 people and wounding up to 167 others, the country's supreme security committee said, Xinhua reported.
The massive bombings seriously damaged a military hospital and three buildings in the ministry compound, as well as set 10 military vehicles on fire.
An official of the defense ministry said anonymously that the explosions caused by suicide car bombings damaged part of the walls of the ministry in downtown Yemen, adding that first car bombing hit the western gate of the ministry and the second one broke into the gate and exploded inside the ministry complex.
The supreme security committee on Thursday night put the latest toll of the attack at 52 killed and 167 injured, without providing further details.
Local media reported that a Western doctor, three Filipina nurses and two Indian nurses working at the military hospital were among the victims. The defense ministry said one of the Yemeni president's relatives was also killed.
Medics in the state-run hospitals of Al-Jomohoury and Al-Thawra said they had received more than 50 wounded soldiers. The Yemeni health ministry called on citizens to donate blood for the wounded in a statement aired by the state television.
Sources with the defense ministry said eight gunmen were killed in the exchange of gunfire following the powerful blasts, while the other four managed to flee. However, the defense ministry said on its website that it captured two of the gunmen.
They said that shortly after the first suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into the western gate, another explosive-laden car carrying a group of gunmen broke into the ministry complex and exploded after the attackers entered the ministry and exchanged gunfire with the soldiers for two hours.
The gunmen wearing military uniforms drove vehicles with military license plates.
The al-Qaida group sent a picture of a dead gunman in military uniform lying on the ground in the defense ministry to local media on Thursday night, saying he is a member of the group who stormed the ministry.
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi held a meeting with the chief of staff inside the defense ministry compound after the attack, ordering an immediate investigation into the incident and demand results within 24 hours.
The official Saba news agency, citing an official source with the defense ministry, said "the attackers exploited the existence of some ongoing constructions there to carry out this criminal act. "
It was the worst single attack in Yemen in 18 months. In May, 2012, a suicide bomber killed over 100 soldiers during a military rehearsal in Sanaa, for which al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula ( AQAP) claimed responsibility, saying it was targeting Defense Minister, Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad.
The defense minister is currently on an official visit to the United States, officials said.
Yemen has undergoing a transitional political period after a year of mass protests that eased former President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in 2012. Since then, violence has escalated in the impoverished Arab country as the government blamed most of attacks on the al-Qaida group that has been considered the most dangerous regional branch in the Middle East.
The AQAP, taking advantage of Yemen's unrest in 2011, seized several southern towns before they were driven out in June 2012 by the Yemeni army.
Hadi's administration has intensified efforts to crack down on the militants, with support of drone strikes as part of a U.S.- backed anti-terrorism campaign.
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