SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Yemen’s prime minister on Saturday but he escaped unharmed, an aide said.
The attack on Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Bassindwa’s convoy in the Yemeni capital comes after a senior intelligence officer was fatally shot in the country’s south by unknown assailants, according to security officials.
Ali al-Sarari, a media aide to the prime minister, told The Associated Press the gunmen were riding in a vehicle without license plates and sprayed the speeding three-car convoy with bullets. Some of the vehicles were pockmarked with bullet holes but Bassindwa escaped unharmed, he said.
Militants in Yemen have been behind a series of assassinations of security officers as the government battles with al-Qaida militants who have mainly operated in the country’s south. Attempts on politicians are rare however. It is not clear if the attack on Bassindwa was an operation targeting him or part of the country’s increasing lawlessness and tension. Yemen is still gripped by political infighting that followed a 2011 uprising against the former president.
Bassindwa was appointed in late 2011 to head a coalition government comprised of ministers from both the opposition and officials from the regime of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who later stepped down in face of popular protest.
In nearly a year of turmoil, security collapsed in some parts of Yemen. Al-Qaida linked militants also took advantage of the political unrest to reinforce their presence in some areas in the country’s south.
On Saturday, security officials in Yemen said suspected al-Qaida-linked gunmen shot and killed a senior intelligence officer.
They said Hassan al-Mansouri was killed Saturday in Labous, in the southern Lahj province, following a day of clashes between local tribesmen and suspected members of al-Qaida in the area. Speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters, the officials said Al-Mansouri had organized local tribes in a campaign to weed out the militants from the area.
The officials said they suspect the officers’ killers are from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Washington considers the group as the most dangerous al-Qaida branch to threaten U.S. interests, and has launched drone attacks against it in Yemen.
Yemen security forces also battle against the group, which has killed security officials in the past.