In an attack that had “the hallmarks of al-Qaeda,” yet another U.S. embassy official has fallen in the line of duty. Qassem Aqlani, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in Sanaa, was shot in a drive-by motorcycle shooting by a masked gunman on his way to work on Thursday, the AP reported.
Yemeni officials cautioned that it may be too early to determine the actual culprit behind the hit, but that the hit “resembles other attacks targeting Yemeni intelligence, military and security officials” executed “in retaliation” for strikes against al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch by the U.S.-backed Yemeni government.
A neighbor of Alqani, named Fahad, told Reuters that “he had noticed strangers roaming the streets over the past three days, suggesting Aqlani was being watched.”
Fahad told Reuters that Alqani, “stepped out of his house … the men shouted his name and when he replied, they shot him in the head and neck.”
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is considered to be the most dangerous offshoot of Al-Qaeda, the Daily Mail reported, and may be looking to further capitalize on the recent anti-American sentiment that was rekindled after the inflammatory “Innocence of Muslims” film sparked the riots that also killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
AQAP called Steven’s death “the best example” to follow for anyone else inclined to attack a Western embassy.
A top Yemeni security officer, Colonel Abdullah al-Ashwal, was also killed in a drive-by shooting in Sanaa two weeks ago, AP said.
Maya covers the U.N., Europe, and the Middle East for IBTimes. She joined the company in July 2012 after having previously worked with DNAinfo.com and Gawker.