Yemeni counter-terrorism official shot dead

SANAA Thu Oct 25, 2012 9:45am EDT

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SANAA (Reuters) - Masked gunmen shot dead a counter-terrorism official south of Sanaa on Wednesday, a security source said, the latest in a series of assassinations as the U.S.-allied government battles al Qaeda militants.

Ali al-Yamani was shot by two motorcycle gunmen in Damar province where he was leading counter-terrorism efforts, the source said, adding the gunmen who fled were suspected of being linked to al Qaeda.

Another assassination attempt on the mayor of Sanaa, Abdulkader Ali Hilal failed earlier Thursday, the official Saba news agency reported.

Hilal was inspecting preparations for the Muslim festivities of Eid when a man on a motorbike attempted to shoot him, the agency said citing a security source.

The gunman, alongside the driver of the motorbike, were both captured and Hilal escaped unharmed, the agency said.

There have been a number of assassinations and attempted assassination on security officials and politicians following the ejection of Islamist militants from towns in Abyan province in south Yemen. The militants took control during an uprising that threw president Ali Abdullah Saleh from office in February.

Saleh's successor Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has cooperated with Washington in an effort to crush the militants, including stepped up air strikes using U.S. unmanned planes or drones.

Restoring stability to Yemen is an international priority due to fears that al Qaeda and other Islamist militants may become entrenched in a country which neighbors oil producer Saudi Arabia and is close to major shipping lanes.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing By Maha El Dahan; editing by Ron Askew)

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