A top Yemeni security official at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen is assassinated by gunmen riding a motorcycle; officials believe the killing could be the work of Al Qaeda
Qassem Aqlani shot dead while on his way to work, Yemeni officials said
By Joseph Straw
October 12, 2012
WASHINGTON — A senior Yemeni security officer working in the U.S. embassy in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa was shot to death near his home Thursday by two masked gunmen riding a motorcycle.
The killing of Qassem Aqlani mirrored other recent assassinations in Yemen by Al Qaeda’s Arab affiliate, and came at a time of heightened concern over security at American embassies in the Middle East following the slaying of the U.S. ambassador to Libya a month ago.
U.S. authorities are investigating whether Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was responsible for Aqlani’s death. Aqlani, who was in his 50s, worked for 11 years at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, where he headed a security investigation team.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied initial reports that Aqlani was investigating the Sept. 13 mob attack on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa that was part of the wave of deadly anti-American violence in the Middle East sparked by a video insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
“He could have been killed for reasons that had something to do with his job or reasons that had nothing to do with his job,” Nuland said. “We just don’t know right now.”
AQAP, core Al Qaeda’s most dangerous spinoff, has killed numerous Yemeni security and military officials in recent months as part of a campaign to undermine the government. The Al Qaeda offshoot ousted Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February, but lost some of its grip over the country during a subsequent government offensive that was backed by American air power.
Thursday’s assassination led to worries that AQAP’s assassination strategy may have been extended to American targets in Yemen.
Also Thursday, Rep. Pete King, the Long Island Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requesting that once the militants responsible for the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya are identified, they be labelled a “foreign terrorist organization,” if they are part of a group that is not already accorded such a classification.
The designation would allow the U.S. to hunt them by all legal means, including freezing group assets.