CAIRO -- A Yemeni attached to the security detail at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was shot and killed Thursday by masked men on a motorcycle in the latest assassination by militants of political and security targets in the capital, Sana.
Yemen officials said the ambush bore the tracings of Al Qaeda, which in recent months has intensified its activity in Sana after coming under increasing pressure by U.S. drone strikes and offensives by security forces against its redoubts in the south of the country.
The killing follows last month’s storming of the embassy by a mob angry over a California-produced video that defiled the prophet Muhammad. Yemen has long been a security concern for U.S. interests -- a 2008 car bombing at the embassy killed at least 16 people, including militants –- and Sana is an eerie mix of Islamic extremists, tribes, rebels and soldiers loyal to rival factions, including the family of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Media reports quoted Yemeni officials as saying Qassem Aqlan, who worked on a security detail at the embassy, was killed in his car western Sana. An official at the U.S. Embassy would not comment on the case until the victim’s family had been notified.
“There is very little I can tell you,” he said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited Yemen’s persistent political unrest, especially since demonstrations last year that ultimately forced Saleh, who had ruled the country for 33 years, to step down. The new president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, has welcomed U.S. drone strikes and other military assistance in targeting Al Qaeda leaders in their mountain strongholds.
The militants have responded by focusing attacks on Yemen’s political, security and intelligence networks. In late September, two masked men on a motorcycle assassinated Col. Abdullah al-Ashwal, a senior intelligence official.
-- Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: A Yemeni soldier stands next to a security vehicle Thursday at the site of the killing of a Yemeni security employee of the U.S. Embassy in Sana, Yemen. Credit: Yahya Arhab / European Pressphoto Agency.