SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A car bomb planted by al-Qaida militants exploded Wednesday near the home of Iran's ambassador to Yemen, killing two people amid a Shiite power grab in the impoverished Arab country believed to be supported by the Islamic Republic.
Iran's ambassador to Yemen, Hossein Niknam, was not at home when the bomb exploded at the residence in the capital, Sanaa, killing a security guard and his son, security officials said. The blast heavily damaged several nearby buildings and punched a hole into the residence. An Iranian flag later lay on the debris.
The Yemeni officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that the ambassador was unharmed.
"The Sanaa explosion didn't harm any Iranian diplomats. Only material damage was inflicted," Tasnim quoted Abdollahian as saying.
Niknam is new to the post and only presented his credentials to the Yemeni Foreign Ministry within the last week, according to Iranian state media.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen's local branch of the terror group, later issued a statement on Twitter claiming the attack on the ambassador's house, located next to the headquarters of Yemen's main intelligence agency. The group has carried out similar attacks in Sanaa.
The car bombing comes after Shiite rebels known as Houthis captured the capital in September, routing fighters loyal to the Islamist Islah party and its tribal allies. Opponents of the Houthis view them as a proxy of Shiite Iran, something the rebels deny.
Local al-Qaida militants have been battling Houthis in the central region where the Shiite group and its allies aim to expand their territory.
Washington views al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as the most dangerous branch of the terror group as it has been linked to a number of foiled or botched attacks on the U.S. homeland. The U.S. has conducted a campaign of drone strikes in the country targeting suspected militants and offers aid to the country's military. Civilian casualties in the strikes have angered many.