ADEN (Reuters) - A Yemeni tribal leader who mediated between the government and al Qaeda was killed at a checkpoint ambush in Abyan province in the country's south on Thursday, official and tribal sources said.
Al Mullah Zabahra was known for helping the government free individuals kidnapped by al Qaeda, including the Saudi consulate's deputy consul, who was abducted in the port city of Aden last year.
"The tribal leader was killed in an ambush, he was in his car when the armed men shot him," said the official source.
Both the official and a tribal source said al Qaeda was behind the incident.
The United States and its Gulf Arab allies have watched with alarm as Islamist fighters, emboldened by political instability, gained ground in the south of Yemen in the past year. Yemen is positioned strategically next to Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in the country, is seen by U.S. officials as the most dangerous offshoot of the global militant network.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Editing by Amena Bakr and Jason Webb)