US man killed in Yemen, Qaeda claims responsibility
SANAA, Yemen - The Asscociated Press
A file picture dated 16 January 2004 shows a general view of the historical Yemeni city of Zabid on the Red Sea, 325 kms west of the captial Sanaa in the Hodeidah province. AFP PhotoAssailants riding a motorbike today gunned down an American teacher in Yemen's second city of Taez, an official said, with an Al-Qaeda-linked group claiming it killed him for preaching Christianity.
The gunmen opened fire on the man while he was in his car in Sena neighbhourhood of the city 270 kilometres (170 miles) southwest of Sanaa, the security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The slain man was an American who had been working in Taez as the deputy director of a Swedish language centre, he added.
Ansar al-Sharia, or Partisans of Sharia -- a group linked to Al-Qaeda -- claimed responsibility for the attack.
Its fighters "killed an American Christian missionary," said a statement circulated by a mobile phone message and confirmed by a source close to the group.
"The attack is in response to a Western campaign to preach Christianity among Muslims," it said.
The statement confirmed the suspicions of another security official that the attack was the work of Al-Qaeda.
The shooting "carries the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda, but investigations are ongoing" to identify the culprits, said an investigating officer who also asked not to be named.
The US embassy in Sanaa said it did not have any information about the killing and that it was investigating the report.
The United States says the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is the most active branch of the global terror network.
Witnesses said however that the attackers were dressed in the uniform of the elite Republican Guard, led by the son of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed.
Opponents of Saleh have repeatedly called for the command of the military to be purged of relatives of the veteran leader, who was forced to step down last month after year-long protests inspired by the Arab Spring.
Al-Qaeda's local branch is active in the south and east of Yemen, but not in Taez, which was a major centre for the opposition movement that eventually forced former president Saleh to step down.
Sunday's attack comes two days after an official said suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen abducted a Swiss woman, also a teacher at a language school, in the Red Sea port of Hodeida and moved her to the restive province of Shabwa further to the east.
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed the abduction and said it had been informed the woman had been kidnapped late Wednesday and were trying to seek her release.
Al-Qaeda militants have exploited the weakening central government in Sanaa to strengthen their presence in the country, especially across the restive south and southeast.
In other violence on Sunday, missiles fired from the sea slammed into Al-Qaeda positions in the southern city of Zinjibar, killing at least 16 suspected militants, a local official said.
He said the heavy shelling began overnight targeting the northeastern suburbs of Zinjibar, which jihadists have controlled since May following fierce fighting with government troops.
More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen during the past 15 years, many of them by members of the country's powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities.
Almost all of those kidnapped were later freed unharmed.