SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen offered a $25,000 reward on Thursday to catch the killers of a Saudi Arabian diplomat, a day after he was gunned down in an attack that security authorities have blamed on al Qaeda.
The killing on Wednesday of Khaled al-Enizi, a military officer at the Saudi embassy, and his Yemeni bodyguard underscored the challenges facing the U.S.-allied state since an uprising last year that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
A Yemeni security committee offered a reward of five million rials ($25,000) for any information leading to the killers, state news agency Saba said.
Dressed as security officers, the attackers blocked a car carrying Enizi, an aide to the Saudi military attaché, and opened fire, the security committee said in a statement. The diplomat and his guard died instantly.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack which took place near the diplomat’s house in the capital but a Yemeni security official said on Wednesday authorities were “assuming that al Qaeda was behind it”.
Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded as al Qaeda’s strongest regional wing, has mounted operations in Saudi Arabia and tried to launch attacks against the United States.
Restoring stability in Yemen is a priority for Washington and its Gulf allies because of its strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen said Saudi diplomats were under continuous threat from al Qaeda but that it could not make any accusations before investigations into the attack.
“The threats are always there and they usually come from al Qaeda in Yemen,” Ali al-Hamdan told the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
The Saudis are a major donor to their poor neighbor and hosted the signing of a power transfer deal under which President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took over as head of state in February after Saleh stepped down.
Islamists linked to al Qaeda kidnapped a Saudi deputy consul in the southern city of Aden in March and are still holding him. They have demanded a ransom and the release of women prisoners, believed to be relatives of al Qaeda fighters.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Mirna Sleiman in Dubai; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Robin Pomeroy