SANAA, Yemen — A car bomb struck the Yemeni defense minister's motorcade as he was driving through the nation's capital Tuesday, killing at least 13 people but leaving the minister unharmed, security officials said.
The minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, has been the target of several failed assassination attempts in the past. The blast hit the minister's convoy as it was traveling through Sanaa on the way to a Cabinet meeting.
Eight of the minister's security guards were among the 13 people killed, the security officials said. The other five dead were civilian bystanders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's attack, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida and came a day after Yemeni authorities announced the death of the No. 2 leader of the network's Yemeni branch in an apparent U.S. airstrike.
Al-Qaida's Yemeni franchise is seen as the world's most active, planning and carrying out attacks against targets in Yemen as well as in the U.S. The group took advantage of the political vacuum during unrest inspired by the Arab Spring last year to seize control of large swaths of land in southern Yemen.
But the Yemeni military has launched a broad U.S.-backed offensive and driven the movement from several towns.
The death of al-Qaida in Yemen's No. 2 leader amounted to a major breakthrough for U.S. efforts to cripple the group in Yemen, which is considered a crucial battleground with the terror network. The impoverished nation on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia and fellow oil-producing nations of the Gulf and lies on strategic sea routes leading to the Suez Canal.