Eric Schmitt of The New York Times reports U.S. Officers Kill Armed Civilians in Yemen Capital, in an steady escalation of violence against al Qaeda forces over the last two weeks.
WASHINGTON — A United States Special Operations commando and a Central Intelligence Agency officer in Yemen shot and killed two armed Yemeni civilians who tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barbershop in the country’s capital two weeks ago, American officials said on Friday.
The two Americans, attached to the United States Embassy, were whisked out of the volatile Middle East nation within a few days of the shooting, with the blessing of the Yemeni government, American officials said.
News of the shootings comes at a perilous moment for the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose collaboration with American drone strikes against suspected members of Al Qaeda is already a subject of seething resentment in Yemen. Yemenis believe, with some evidence, that the drone strikes often kill nearby civilians as well as their targets, so any indication that Mr. Hadi’s government helped conceal the killing of Yemenis by American commandos could be problematic.
Yesterday, I reported that Yemeni government forces backed up by American drones killed several al Qaeda fighers and destroyed a base camp. On Friday militants attacked a checkpoint near the presidential palace.
Knowing of this event at the barbershop two weeks ago provides context for the last 10 days of the Yemeni government's crackdown on al Qaeda strongholds.
Author Eric Schmitt identifies one of the Americans the Yemeni armed civilians tried to kidnap was a "lieutenant colonel with the elite Joint Special Operations Command and the other was a C.I.A. officer," leading to the suspicion that this choice of kidnap victims may have been a "tactical error," on the part of these civilians. U.S. elite special forces officers should come with special warning tags, "attempt to kidnap at your own risk." (snark alert.)
In a third counter attack armed fighters attacked oil and gas pipelines in the province of Marib, apparently in retaliation for Yemeni attacks against al Qaeda camps and American drone strikes last month that killed three dozen members of an al Qaeda affiliate group in Yemen.
The American Embassy has not been evacuated, however, it is closed to the public and is not processing visas and other services according to the State Department.