Masked gunmen have attacked and killed a security official at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, Reuters reported early this morning. The official, Qassem Aqlan, was a Yemeni who led a security team at the U.S. diplomatic mission. He was attacked in his car by assassins on a motorcycle in the city center.
The attack came just hours after Americans began to learn the full extent of security failures at U.S. diplomatic missions in Libya prior to the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month.
Officials on the ground had asked the State Department for increased security, but their requests were denied or ignored by a bureaucracy that still insists it had the correct number of “assets” in place. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice all claimed the attacks had been the result of outrage at an anti-Islam video–not premeditated terror attacks against weak defenses.
Today’s attack on the U.S. security official – likely the work of Al Qaeda, which is battling U.S. drone strikes and counter-terror operations in Yemen – has not been accompanied by similar rationalizations, but underlines the fact that terrorists are planning and carrying out attacks against U.S. diplomatic targets. Al Qaeda pursued a similar strategy in the late 1990s, before the U.S. shifted its strategy away from a law enforcement approach. Both the Bush and the Obama administrations have carried out drone strikes in Yemen against Al Qaeda.
The new attack is a reminder that there is more to the wave of anti-American attacks than an Internet video, and that the U.S. still faces a determined enemy in Al Qaeda despite the killing of Osama bin Laden last May.