WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. embassy officers shot and killed two armed people after an attempted abduction in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in April, the State Department said on Saturday.
“We can confirm that, last month, two U.S. embassy officers in Yemen fired their weapons after being confronted by armed individuals in an attempted kidnapping at a small commercial business in Sanaa,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
Two people were killed and the Americans involved are no longer in Yemen, she said without elaborating.
Security sources in the Yemeni capital said closed circuit television footage showed the Americans at a barber shop when two armed men disguised as security personnel entered and the confrontation ensued.
The footage showed two Yemenis on the floor when it was over, the sources said.
The New York Times reported Friday that a U.S. Special Operations commando and a CIA officer shot and killed two armed Yemenis who tried to kidnap them in a barber shop in Sanaa.
The paper, quoting two unidentified senior U.S. officials, said the two Americans were whisked out of the country days after the shooting, with the blessing of the Yemeni government.
Citing recent attacks against Western interests in Yemen, the United States this week closed its embassy in Sanaa to the public.
On Friday, suspected al Qaeda-linked gunmen attacked Yemen’s presidential palace and tried to kill the defense minister in his car, selecting high profile targets in apparent reprisal for the army’s biggest push against militants in nearly two years.
Since late April, the Yemen government has stepped up its campaign against the Yemeni group considered al Qaeda’s most active unit, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), driving it from some of its strongholds in the south.
The push followed air strikes against AQAP in April that the government said had killed at least 55 militants, the biggest against al Qaeda since at least 2012.
Washington sees Yemen as one of the main battlefields in its global campaign against Islamic militants.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Maha El Dahan in Abu Dhabi; Editing by Sophie Hares