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Al-Qaida claims responsibility for Yemen attack

SANAA -- Al-Qaida claimed responsibility Friday for a brazen attack on a Yemeni defense complex that killed 52 people, saying it targeted the site as it hosted U.S. personnel behind drone strikes against its militants.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the jihadist network's most dangerous affiliate, has been hit by intensified U.S. drone strikes targeting its militants in Yemen this year.

But there was no immediate evidence to support its allegation that the Sanaa complex attacked on Thursday played any role in the drone war or housed any U.S. personnel.

All of the dead came in a hospital inside the sprawling facility which bore the brunt of the armed assault that came after a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into the main gate.

The complex in central Sanaa was “stormed ... after the mujahedeen (holy warriors) proved that it accommodates drone control rooms and American experts,” AQAP said in a statement published by its media arm on Twitter.

“As part of a policy to target drone control rooms, the mujahedeen have dealt a heavy blow to one,” it said.

“Such security headquarters in partnership with the Americans in their war on these Muslim people are a justified target wherever they may be.”

Washington condemned the attack which comes as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser headed a military delegation on a visit to the United States.

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she had no information about any U.S. casualties.

Two doctors from Germany, two from Vietnam and another from Yemen were killed, as well as two female nurses from the Philippines and one from India, Yemen's official Saba news agency said.

But the Philippine foreign ministry gave a higher death toll for its nationals, saying that seven had died, all medical staff and including a doctor.

'Hospital patients among martyrs'

The remaining “martyrs” were all patients in the hospital, including both soldiers and civilians, among them a top Yemeni judge and his wife, Yemen's supreme security committee said.

Saba said 167 people were wounded, nine of them seriously.

The defense ministry said gunmen occupied the hospital after the explosion, but that security forces had regained control of the building.

But residents in Sanaa said the sounds of clashes and explosions rang out from the area and were heard across the capital throughout the night until fighting subsided at dawn on Friday.

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