WASHINGTON - In an incident reminiscent of the Raymond Davis affair, two US security officers shot and killed two Yemeni armed civilians who tried to kidnap them last month in Sanaa, the State Department said. The two Americans - a Special Operations commando and a Central Intelligence Agency officer - were removed from Yemen shortly after the shooting, ‘with the blessing of the Yemeni government,’ according to a media report.
‘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. ‘Two of the armed individuals were killed. The embassy officers are no longer in Yemen.’
A spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, Mohammed Albasha, said he was aware of the shooting but had no information about any American role in the matter or his government’s response to that role, according to The New York Times.
The newspaper 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 the echo of the 2011 shooting of two men in Lahore 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.