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13 hurt in Yemen attack; U.S. Embassy thought target

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. officials say embassy likely was target of attack
  • Three mortar rounds explode at school near embassy in San'a
  • 13 students injured, three of them critically, officials say
  • Yemeni official says target was not embassy, but someone in the school
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(CNN) -- The American Embassy in Yemen was the target of a mortar attack Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said, contradicting a suggestion from the Yemeni government the attack targeted a school where 13 were injured.

"Our conversations in Yemen have led us to the conclusion that the attack was directed against our embassy," according to a statement released Tuesday evening. "Since this is an ongoing investigation, we are not going to talk about the specifics of the case."

Earlier, a source with knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Tuesday's mortar attack in the capital city of San'a -- but unauthorized to speak on the record -- told CNN there was a "clear and strong indication" the U.S. embassy was targeted.

"My strong belief is that there is almost no doubt this is an effort directed at the U.S. embassy," the source said.

The Yemeni government said the attack Tuesday -- which injured 13 students, three critically, at the Seventh of July school for girls, near the embassy -- could have stemmed from a personal dispute involving the school's headmistress. Yemen's ambassador to the United States, Abdulwahab Abdulla al-Hajjri, said the attack was "a private dispute."

"The target was someone inside the school," al-Hajjri said. "It had nothing to do with the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy was not a target."

However, CNN's source said the Yemeni government is calling this a private dispute to "distract us" from their security "failure." The source said Yemeni investigators are also looking at this as a terrorist attack and are "energetically pursuing that line of thought. That reflects the seriousness in which they approach it."

The source indicated the Yemeni government "does not have anyone in custody" but "they are looking for someone."

Yemeni soldiers guarding the embassy were hurt in the attack.

The U.S. Embassy will be closed Wednesday.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh condemned the attack and offered rewards to anyone who assists in the investigation, according to Saba, Yemen's official news agency.

The San'a city council called the incident "a horrible terrorist work" and said "the attack goes against Islamic teachings and cultural values; and no one would do such a thing except those who have weak souls," Saba reported. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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