RA Yemeni MP killed, shots fired at UN envoy's convoy-security sources

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 22, 2013 1:03 PM
RA Yemeni MP killed, shots fired at UN envoy's convoy-security sources

By Adel Al-Khader

SANAA (Reuters) - Attackers on a motorbike shot dead a Yemeni parliament member in Sanaa and a gunman opened fire on a convoy carrying the United Nations' envoy to Yemen without causing any injuries or damage, in two separate incidents on Friday, security sources said.

Jamal Benomar's office swiftly denied the report, saying there was no gunfire directed at the motorcade.

The attacks underscore the fragility of Yemen, a U.S. ally grappling with a host of challenges, including from al Qaeda militants, southern separatists and Shi'ite Houthi rebels in the north, as it pursues reconciliation talks aimed at restoring stability to the country.

A security source said parliament member, Abdul Karim Jedban, who is also a delegate to the reconciliation conference, was killed in a drive-by shooting by two men on a motorbike as he left a mosque in Sanaa.

Jedban, a member of Yemen's Shi'ite Muslim community, had previously been elected as an MP representing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress party before he switched and joined the Houthi movement which controls the northern Saada province, Yemeni sources said.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack. But the Houthi group had been fighting against Sunni Muslim Salafis in northern Yemen. The Houthis accuse the Salafis of in the town of Damaj of recruiting thousands of foreign fighters and preparing to attack them.

In the second incident, a security source said that a civilian fired at least four shots from an AK 47 at Benomar's motorcade while returning to his hotel in the Yemeni capital.

The source, who declined to be identified, said the bullets whizzed over the white armored car guarded by several Yemeni military vehicles.

Benomar's office said any gunfire in the area was not directed at the motorcade itself.

The U.N. envoy, who has played a key role in promoting the power transfer deal that saw Saleh step down in 2011 after months of protests against his 33 years in office, has been trying to push forward the reconciliation talks with the aim of facilitating elections due in 2014.

The talks have got stuck mainly on disagreement over demands by southern separatists to restore the state that merged with North Yemen in 1990.

Last week Benomar, a U.N. diplomat of Moroccan origin, accused elements in Saleh's former administration for problems facing the reconciliation talks. He told Yemeni state television the United Nations would punish those who tried to block the dialogue.

The difficulties facing the talks has prompted speculation that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was elected for a two year interim period after Saleh stepped down in 2011, may stay in office beyond February 2014.

The delay may raise concern among Western powers anxious about instability in Yemen, an impoverished Arab state which borders oil exporter Saudi Arabia and which is struggling against an insurgency by one of al Qaeda's most active branches.

(Writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by Ron Askew)