YEMEN-Saudi Diplomat
YEMEN-Saudi Diplomat
Unidentified gunmen shot dead a Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, Wednesday in an attack that appeared to be the work of al-Qaida.

Yemeni officials said the Saudi officer, Khaled al-Enizi, an aide to the Saudi military attache, was traveling to the embassy when he was shot by gunmen wearing army uniforms in another car.

Robert Powell, a senior Middle East analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit, pointed the finger at extremist al-Qaida militants active in Yemen.

"It's a reminder that al-Qaida - although it's been kicked out of several of its strongholds in the south - remains a potent threat," Powell said. "They are actually presently holding another Saudi diplomat in the south of the country, and now they've killed another Saudi diplomat and one of his bodyguards."

Powell said it is "absolutely vital" that Yemen's national dialogue, which is to set up the framework for a new constitution and allow progress toward new presidential and parliamentary elections - be allow to continue.

The dialogue is backed and funded by Gulf Arab states, Europe and the United States.

Yemen is one of the poorest states in the world. Restoring stability there is an international priority because al-Qaida's strongest regional wing is active there. The country also adjoins oil exporter Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

The killing was the latest attack on security officials and politicians in the U.S.-allied state.

In October 2010, three people including a diplomat were hurt in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a British embassy car in Sana'a. That attack came less than six months after Britain's ambassador to Yemen escaped an assault by a suicide bomber on his convoy in the capital.

Yemen's south was an al-Qaida stronghold until the army launched an offensive earlier this year to take back areas seized by militants.

Saudi Arabia also has been fighting al-Qaida militants who have attacked Saudi interests from bases in Yemen. Saudi authorities have arrested a number of suspects - Saudi and Yemeni nationals - in recent months.

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