Saudi diplomat shot dead in Yemen capital Sanaa

Yemeni men gather at the site of the attack The attack took place in the district of Hada, where embassies and diplomatic residences are situated

A Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard have been shot dead in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Gunmen opened fire on the diplomat's car, causing it to flip over, security officials said.

The gunmen were said to have been dressed as members of the security services.

Saudi Arabia is deeply involved with its unstable and impoverished southern neighbour as Yemen battles Islamist militants with US assistance.

"Gunmen opened fire at the Saudi diplomat's car in a neighbourhood in southern Sanaa, killing him and his Yemeni bodyguard," a security official was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Analysis

The Saudis have backed a major military campaign against al-Qaeda in southern Yemen - only the latest sign of the Saudis' deep involvement in the country.

They have given millions of dollars to influence tribal leaders and intervened in a long-running conflict with Shia separatists known as Houthis in the north.

Yemen's traditional lawlessness has been exacerbated by the political turmoil of the past two years, making it in Saudi eyes an even more dangerous breeding ground for Islamic militants - as well as a destination for its home-grown extremists.

He said the diplomat was the assistant military attache at the Saudi embassy.

The attack took place in Sanaa's southern district of Hada, where embassies and diplomatic residences are situated.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

However, Saudi Arabia has been battling al-Qaeda-inspired militants and it is well known that supporters of the Islamist group are exploiting the lawlessness in Yemen to set up bases there.

Correspondents say a number of Saudi jihadists are believed to have crossed the border to join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and similar groups in southern Yemen.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia's deputy consul in Yemen was kidnapped by al-Qaeda, and remains captive.

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