Middle East

Yemen unrest: Car bomb in Aden kills British worker

A car bomb blast has killed a British national who worked for a shipping firm in Yemen's southern port city of Aden.

Witnesses said the man's car exploded when he got in and started the engine. A passerby was badly wounded.

The blast happened in the Moalla area, near a hotel housing the shipping company's office, police said.

Yemen has been plagued by political unrest for months, including clashes in the south between security forces and Islamist militants.

British targets

The Yemeni authorities have launched an investigation. An intelligence official said the attack bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation.

"He started the car and it immediately exploded and he was engulfed in flames," a witness told Reuters news agency.

Another witness, Abdullah al-Sharafi, described the aftermath. "I heard the explosion, I hurried there and I found the car in pieces," he told AFP news agency.

The UK Foreign Office confirmed a British national had been killed and advised Britons not to travel to Yemen.

The victim was a long-term, well-known resident of Aden in his 60s, a security source told Reuters.

He is believed to have just returned from inspecting a ship offshore that had been attacked earlier by pirates.

It is not the first time that British nationals have been targeted in the Gulf country - one of the most impoverished and unstable in the Arab world.

In April 2010, the British ambassador to Yemen narrowly escaped being killed when a car bomb hit his convoy in Sanaa. And last October, a rocket-propelled grenade hit an embassy car in Sanaa, wounding three people, including a diplomat.

Aden, the strategic southern port city, has remained generally calm despite unrest in neighbouring southern provinces.

Political vacuum

In the capital, Sanaa, Yemen's main Islamic party said there had been an attempt to kill one of its leaders. The party, al-Islah, accused the government of being behind the attack.

The party is trying to form an opposition coalition to prevent the return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh from Saudi Arabia, where he has been recovering from wounds sustained in an attack on his presidential palace in June.

US and Yemeni officials have repeatedly expressed concern that al-Qaeda linked militants have been taking advantage of a power vacuum in Sanaa to expand their operations.

Protesters have been calling for the ousting of the veteran president in mass street protests since January.

Yemen's Deputy Information, Minister Abdo al-Janadi, said on Saturday that Mr Saleh would return home "soon".

But the opposition has joined forces with rebels in both the north and the south of the country in a bid to block his return to power.