A drive-by shooting Thursday that killed a top Yemeni security official who worked at the U.S. Embassy in San‘a has raised concern that al-Qaida militants here are bouncing back and getting bolder after suffering defeats this year in a U.S.-Yemeni military offensive.
Al-Qaida in Yemen has carried out a string of assassinations of top security and military officials and deadly suicide bombings in recent months. Security officials said they believe it has a hit list to kill more in an attempt to paralyze Yemen’s new leadership installed this year and throw the anti-al-Qaida assaults into turmoil.
The new killing also raises the possibility the group could turn its assassination campaign against American interests as well. The group has sought to ride the recent wave of anger against the U.S. over an anti-Islam film by calling for attacks on American and other foreign diplomatic missions.
In Thursday’s attack, embassy security official Qassem Aqlani was on his way to work when a masked gunman on a motorcycle opened fire on him and fled the scene, officials said. The attack was near Aqlani’s home in western San‘a, while the embassy is located in the eastern part of the capital. Aqlani, who was in his 50s, had been working for the embassy for 11 years, the U.S. State Department said.
Yemeni security officials said the attack was similar to previous assassinations by al-Qaida, although they said it was too early to confirm the group’s involvement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
There are increased concerns over security at American embassies in the region after last month’s deadly attack by militants against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed the U.S ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.