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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK

World: Middle East

Yemen bomb blast kills four

The bomb exploded in the Old Quarter of Sana'a

Four people were killed and 43 were wounded a crowded market in the capital of Yemen, when a gunman threw a hand grenade and then opened fire, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry said police arrested a man shortly after the attack.

It did not identify him, but said investigations showed the incident was not politically-motivated.

Hospital sources said six of the injured were in a serious condition.

Police sealed off the area around Bab el-Yemen in the capital's Old Quarter where the powerful explosions occurred.

The Qatari staellite TV channel Al-Jazeera reported that Yemeni Interior Minister Colonel Hussein Arab and other Yemeni security officials were inspecting the blast site in the Suq al-Milh quarter to assess the damage.

Court ruling

The explosion happened only hours after a Yemeni court upheld the death sentence on the leader of an Islamic militant group.

Abu Bakr al-Mehdar, also known as Abu Hassan, was sentenced for his part in the kidnapping of 16 western tourists last December, four of whom were killed.

He repeated earlier threats against the authorities, saying his supporters would launch attacks if the sentence was carried out.

Also last year, a string of bomb attacks shook the southern part of the country.

The authorities blamed the unrest on southern leaders who fled into exile after they were defeated by troops from the north in the civil war of 1994.

At the time, officials detained opposition activists for questioning, but later released them all.

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