Gunmen kill military intelligence officer in south Yemen

ADEN Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:40am EST

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ADEN (Reuters) - Masked men shot dead a military intelligence officer in southern Yemen on Monday, a local security source said, the latest in a series of killings targeting security officials in the Arabian Peninsula state.

Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Shaker al-Bani late on Sunday near his house in the southern city of Ghayl ba Wazir in Hadramout province, killing him instantly, the source said.

No one claimed responsibility for the killing, but the source said he suspected that al Qaeda militants, who are battling the U.S.-backed government, were behind it.

There have been a number of killings of security officials and politicians in the impoverished and often chaotic country since Yemen's army drove Islamist fighters out of several southern towns earlier this year with Washington's help.

Last week, masked gunmen shot dead Colonel Ahmed Barmadah, deputy head of the Political Security Office, the domestic intelligence service, in Hadramout.

Yemen's stability is a priority for the United States and its Gulf allies because of Yemen's strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes, and because it is home to one of the most active wings of al Qaeda.

Washington is worried that al Qaeda, entrenched in parts of Yemen, will use a power vacuum to launch attacks abroad, and has stepped up drone strikes on suspected militants with the backing of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Militant groups seized parts of the country during a revolt last year that ousted veteran strongman president Ali Abdullah Saleh in February. The U.S.-backed military offensive has driven them back but has not prevented attacks that have dealt serious blows to the army and security apparatus.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by Patrick Graham)

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