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52 slain in Yemen capital attack

Security forces are on the scene after an explosion at the Defense Ministry complex in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday. A suicide car bomber struck Yemen's Defense Ministry Thursday, killing more than a dozen soldiers and paving the way for a carload of gunmen wearing army uniforms to storm the heavily guarded compound in the capital of Sanaa, military and hospital officials said. AP photo

Security forces are on the scene after an explosion at the Defense Ministry complex in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday. A suicide car bomber struck Yemen's Defense Ministry Thursday, killing more than a dozen soldiers and paving the way for a carload of gunmen wearing army uniforms to storm the heavily guarded compound in the capital of Sanaa, military and hospital officials said. AP photo

SANAA, Yemen — More than 50 people were killed in a deadly attack in the Yemeni capital Thursday when militants penetrated the headquarters of the nation’s Ministry of Defense in a two-stage assault that began shortly after the start of the workday.

Security officials said the attack began about 9 a.m. when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at one of the ministry’s entrances. A second vehicle broke into the ministry’s perimeter, disgorging gunmen wearing military uniforms who opened fire, engaging soldiers stationed inside.

The gunmen also attacked staff and patients at a medical clinic inside the ministry compound that is popular with Yemen’s elite.

The death toll included a prominent judge taking part in Yemen’s ongoing Conference of National Dialogue, a government-sponsored effort at settling political differences, and a cousin of Yemen’s president, who was killed as he was visiting a patient at the clinic.

No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Suspicion fell, however, on al-Qaida’s local franchise, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, with analysts pointing out that the two-stage assault was similar to a 2008 attack on the U.S. Embassy here, when al-Qaida militants used similar tactics.

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