YEMEN

US officers killed Yemeni civilians, State Department says

Photo: AFP archive

Two US officers shot and killed two armed civilians who tried to kidnap them last month in Yemen's capital, the US State Department official said Friday.

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The two Americans were removed from Yemen shortly after the shooting.

"We can confirm that, last month, two US Embassy officers in Yemen fired their weapons after being confronted by armed individuals in an attempted kidnapping at a small commercial business in Sanaa," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement to AFP.

"Two of the armed individuals were killed. The embassy officers are no longer in Yemen."

Citing unidentified US officials, The New York Times reported that the Americans were a CIA officer and a lieutenant colonel with the elite Joint Special Operations Command who were visiting a barber shop in an upscale district in Yemen’s capital.

It said the shooting occurred on April 24.

The revelation comes amid fresh tensions in the already troubled nation after the Yemen army launched a major offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAB) on April 29.

Earlier on Friday, gunmen believed to be al Qaeda militants ambushed the motorcade of Yemen’s defence minister in the Mahfad region, officials said. The assassination attempt failed.

Suspected al Qaeda militants also attacked Yemen's presidential palace on the same day, killing five guards and triggering a fierce gunfight as the extremists hit back at the offensive.

President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi was not at the palace in the capital at the time, a security source said.

Earlier this week, the US Embassy in Sanaa closed temporarily because of attacks on Westerners.

A day before Tuesday’s closure, gunmen opened fire on three French security guards working with the European Union mission in the Yemeni capital, killing one and wounding another.

The case revealed on Friday has parallels with the 2011 shooting of two men in Lahore, Pakistan by CIA contractor Raymond Davis. The incident sparked a diplomatic row between Pakistan and the United States.

Davis was jailed for weeks and released after paying blood money.

"There will certainly be an investigation and one would have to assume it will be informed by what happened in Pakistan," a US official told the Times, hinting Washington was keen on avoiding a repeat of the tensions over the Lahore case with close counterterrorism ally Yemen.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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