In an overnight shootout, Yemeni security forces killed a wanted al-Qaeda commander suspected of leading attempted kidnappings of Western diplomats, among other crimes, according to local officials.
A government spokesman reported that Shayef Mohammed Said al-Shabwani was "one of Al-Qaeda's most dangerous and wanted commanders." The spokesman added that al-Shabwani was "suspected of involvement in abductions and killings of Yemeni police and foreigners."
Yemeni security authorities stopped al-Shabwani, who was in a car with four others, near the presidential palace in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last night. Al-Shabwani resisted arrest and opened fire on the security officials, who responded in kind, killing him and another man. The other three men were taken into custody, two of them injured.
Earlier this week, Western leaders said they are reducing embassy staff in Yemen over the threat of kidnapping and other safety concerns. Yesterday, a spokesman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said that, "like other diplomatic and international actors in Sanaa, we are limiting the presence to essential staff and reviewing our security measures." And on Wednesday, the U.S. announced it would close its embassy to the public, for now.
Yemen launched an aggressive anti-terrorist campaign last month in the south, were the terrorist strongholds are located. On Sunday, the defense ministry reported that nearly 40 suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed by Yemeni soldiers, and five other al-Qaeda operatives have been reportedly killed since then.