Two gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead an American teacher in the Yemeni province of Taiz on Sunday, reported CNN. The victim was on his way to work when a gunman riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by an accomplice fired eight shots at his car. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the terror network's affiliate in Yemen — claimed responsibility for the killing, saying in a text message sent to Yemeni media outlets that the victim was spreading Christianity to the Yemeni people and that he was one of the biggest missionaries in the country.
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"This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims," an unidentified person said in the text message, claiming responsibility on behalf of the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), according to Reuters.
The shooting "carries the fingerprints of Al Qaeda, but investigations are ongoing" to identify those involved, said an investigating officer who also asked not to be named, reported Agence France-Presse. The United States Embassy in Sanaa said it did not have any information about the killing but that it was investigating the report.
A US State Department official said it had not yet been able to confirm the victim's nationality, but reports said a Swedish-affiliated institute identified him as its deputy director and teacher, according to MSNBC. Media outlets have reported his name is Joel Shrun or Joel Sharm and that he was born in 1983.
Most of Yemen saw its central state authority collapse during a yearlong revolt against longtime leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month, reported The Washington Post. Militants affiliated with Al Qaeda used the chaos as a way to seize control of many towns in southern Yemen.