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Yemeni security officer working at U.S. embassy is shot to death

  • Article by: NASSER ARRABYEE
  • New York Times
  • October 11, 2012 - 7:39 PM

SANAA, YEMEN - A senior Yemeni officer working in the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa was killed on Thursday in an attack that security sources said bore the hallmarks of the regional Al-Qaida affiliate.

The killing came amid sharp American scrutiny of security at foreign diplomatic posts in the wake of the militant assault one month ago on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel.

Witnesses said that two men on a motorcycle drove up alongside the car of the embassy employee, Qassim Aklan, and one of them opened fire. Aklan was in the west of the city, and it was not clear whether he was on his way to the embassy, which is in the eastern part of Sanaa, the capital.

There was no claim of responsibility, but militants have attacked official targets in Yemen in response to the government's campaign against cells of the regional franchise, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. counter-terrorism officials have called the terror network's most active affiliate.

The State Department condemned the killing as "vicious." Victoria Nuland, the department spokeswoman, said in a briefing: "He was a dedicated professional, and he will be greatly missed. We're coordinating closely with the Yemeni authorities to investigate this attack."

She said there was no certain information on whether he had been killed "for reasons that had something to do with his job or reasons that had nothing to do with his job."

Aklan had worked at the embassy for 11 years, Nuland said, and was out with a family member when he was shot. In his most recent position at the embassy, he was employed as a security investigator and liaison, a fairly common position in U.S. embassies, which means he could have been doing work that involved background checks or coordinating with local police.

Nuland denied earlier reports from officials in Yemen that Aklan had been helping to look into the episode last month in which protesters furious over a video produced in the United States that mocked the Prophet Mohammed breached the compound's outer security perimeter.

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