Sunday, May 11, 2014

Yemen: Even Getting a Haircut in Sana'a Can Prove to be a Risky Challenge

According to The Associated Press, one of two officers assigned to the US Embassy in Sana'a were the apparent targets of a kidnapping on April 24, when al-Qaeda gunmen rushed into the barbershop where the two Americans were in line to get a haircut. 

The barbershop, owned by a long-time Indian expat, is on Heda Street, a commercial road in the southern part of the city where some of Sana'a's best restaurants, supermarkets and high-end boutiques are situated.

At the time the al-Qaeda militants rushed into the barbershop, one of the Americans was having his hair cut, while the other was in line.

It is uncertain as to which officer had his gun at the ready, but he was able to kill two of the militants before they chose to engage in an abrupt retrograde. 

COMMENT: Yemeni authorities questioned the two targeted Americans and later gave them permission to leave the country.

Authorities said the two gunmen were suspected members of an al-Qaeda cell operating in Sana'a who specialize in the abduction of foreigners for ransom.

The US deems Yemen's branch of al-Qaeda, also known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), to be the most dangerous in the world. 

The group is blamed for a number of unsuccessful bomb plots aimed at Americans, including an attempt to bring down a US-bound airliner with explosives hidden in the bomber's underwear and a second plot to send mail bombs hidden in the toner cartridges on planes headed to the US.

Last week, the US Embassy in Sana'a closed temporarily due to threats against Westerners. 

Gunmen recently opened fire on three French security guards working with the European Union (EU) in the Yemeni capital, killing one and wounding another.