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Yemen: Death threats preceded Saudi diplomat’s murder | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh/Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Ali al-Hamdan, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Corporal Khalid Al-Enazi, an official at the Saudi military attaché office in Sanaa, was shot dead by gunmen dressed in Yemen Central Security uniforms, along with his Yemeni bodyguard Jalal Mubarak Hadi Shaban yesterday.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Saudi ambassador revealed that this attack was preceded by death threats against Saudi diplomats in Yemen, saying “there are always threats…these usually come from Al Qaeda in Yemen.” However Ambassador Ali al-Hamdan refused to speculate on who was responsible for the killing, stressing that everybody should wait for the results of the investigation being conducted by the Yemeni authorities in coordination with the Saudi embassy in Sanaa.

For his part, Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama al-Naqli asserted that “investigations are ongoing, and as of yet no party has claimed responsibility for the attack.” He added “we have no comment other than the official statement issued by the [Foreign] Ministry.”

A Yemeni Interior Ministry source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the car that was being used by the gunmen was a “saloon” type-car bearing the license plate “1-88215.”

He revealed that this car was registered to a Yemeni national named Noman Said Hazam, adding that Hazam had reported his car stolen on 18 September.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry issued an official statement revealing that “Corporal Khalid Al-Enazi working at the Saudi military attaché office in Sanaa, along with his Yemeni bodyguard, were killed this morning when unidentified gunmen shot them outside the home of Al-Enazi.”

The statement added “Yemeni security authorities, in collaboration with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, have immediately begun investigation into the circumstances and motives behind the crime in order to bring the offenders to justice.”

For its part, the Saudi Press Agency [SPA] quoted a Yemeni government official who stressed that Sanaa will “spare no effort to pursue and uncover the details of this crime, discover and apprehend its mastermind and bring him to justice to face the toughest punishment.”

The source added that attacks such as this aim to target the security and stability of both Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as the safety of the general public, however he stressed that such incidents only serve to strengthen the bonds between the two countries leaderships, governments and peoples. He asserted that Riyadh and Sanaa are “more united to confront all kinds of crimes, aggression, conspiracy, risks and evil plots.”

Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi telephoned Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Mohammed Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz yesterday to express his “deep sorrow and sincere condolences” to Prince Mohammed Bin Naif and the family of Khalid al-Enazi. SPA also revealed that the Yemeni President “briefed Prince Mohammed Bin Naif on the criminal nature of the cowardly terrorist incident, which led to the martyrdom of Corporal Khalid Al-Enazi.”

Yemen offered a $25,000 reward on Thursday for information leading to the killers of the Saudi diplomat.

In this regard, experts in Yemeni affairs have raised questions regarding who is responsible for this incident and the attacker’s possible motives. Yemeni experts raised doubts about reports that Huthi rebels were involved in this attack, citing discrepancies between this attack and known Huthi modus operandi.

Whilst Saudi experts also played down the possibility of Al Qaeda being responsible for this attack, particularly due to the timing of this attack, namely whilst negotiations are ongoing regarding the release of kidnapped Saudi consul Abdullah Al-Khalidi.

Saudi researcher Mohanna al-Hubail informed Asharq Al-Awsat that it was very unlikely that Al Qaeda was responsible for this attack, “particularly as the failure of the negotiations [over kidnapped Saudi consul Al-Khalidi] has not been announced yet.”

For his part, expert in Saudi – Yemeni relations, Dr. Mohamed Hamid, stressed that the abduction and kidnapping of foreign diplomats in Yemen during the previous regime usually took place for financial reasons, adding “the [Yemeni] tribes would get involved with this, whilst the government would then undertake negotiations.”

He stressed “the political side of the equation was not present during Ali Abdullah Saleh’s era, because there was no problem with the Kingdom whatsoever” adding “Yemen was supported strongly and enjoyed good relations with the Kingdom.”

The in Saudi – Yemeni relations expert also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that it would not be difficult for any party in Yemen to disguise themselves in military uniform. He said “we cannot discern, in any way, shape or form, the identity of the perpetrators from what they were wearing.” He added “it would be very easy for the perpetrators to get their hands on the uniform and the arms.”

Dr. Hamid revealed attempted abductions of foreign diplomats in Yemen, for monetary gain, is nothing new, but stressed that “I cannot recall diplomats being targeted for assassination; this was usually confined to financial extortion.”

He added “we must also take note that Saudi Arabia is the primary enemy of the Huthis”, in reference to the conflict that broke out between Saudi Arabia and the Huthi rebels in 2009. He said that “nobody in Yemen, since the 26 September revolution, has been able to gain complete control of the security situation…this a relative process. There is also the tribal factor, which cannot be controlled” adding “the former regime undertook certain tactics to control the tribes.”

For his part, Saudi researcher Mohanna al-Hubail asserted that there are two primary parties seeking to target Saudi interests in Yemen, namely Al Qaeda and the Huthi rebels.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat “it is unlikely that Al Qaeda is responsible for this attack, as negotiations over Consul al-Khalidi are still ongoing, and Al Qaeda has not announced their failure…whilst this assassination also represents a qualitative difference in terms of the nature of this operation.”

Al-Hubail said it was more likely that the Huthi rebels were responsible for this assassination, particularly as the target was a military attaché. He said “this could be linked to the Saada war and the involvement of Huthi groups in Iran.”