Gunmen kill Saudi diplomat, guard in Yemen capital

A Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard were killed when their car was raked with gunfire by unidentified assailants in Yemen's capital Wednesday, a diplomatic source and the kingdom's foreign ministry said.

"Gunmen dressed in the central security forces' uniforms opened fire heavily at the car of the Saudi diplomat in Sanaa, causing it to flip over, killing him and his bodyguard," the source in Yemen told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat is an official at the embassy's military section in Yemen, the source said.

Saudi Arabia confirmed the incident, identifying the diplomat as Sergeant Khaled Shobeikan al-Anzi.

Anzi "came under gunfire from unknown gunmen as he was leaving his home, killing him and his Yemeni bodyguard," Saudi's official news agency SPA quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

"Yemeni authorities have launched immediate investigations into this criminal act in coordination with the kingdom's ambassador in Sanaa to find out the circumstances and motives behind the crime and to bring the criminals to justice," the official was quoted as saying.

The attack, which has not immediately been claimed, took place in Sanaa's southern district of Hada, where embassies and diplomats' residences are located.

In October 2010, three people including a diplomat were hurt in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a British embassy car in Sanaa.

That attack came less than six months after Britain's ambassador to the Arabian Peninsula country escaped an assault by a suicide bomber on his convoy in the capital.

More recently, attacks in Sanaa have targeted members of the security forces and have mostly been claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the network's deadliest branch.

In May, as soldiers rehearsed for a parade, an attacker detonated explosives hidden under his uniform in the middle of a battalion, killing 96 troops and wounding about 300. The attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda.

In October, unidentified gunmen shot dead a senior Yemeni security official employed by the US embassy in a Sanaa hit-and-run attack.

In south Yemen, Jihadists are still holding Saudi's deputy consul in Aden, Abdullah al-Khalidi, who was abducted on March 28 by Al-Qaeda militants seeking to secure the release of female prisoners and to collect a ransom.

Al-Qaeda has exploited the weakening central government in Sanaa to strengthen its presence in areas across the restive south and southeast.

Saudi Arabia itself witnessed a wave of deadly attacks by Al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006, which prompted authorities to launch a crackdown on the local branch of the jihadist network founded by slain Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

The kingdom, Yemen's rich neighbour, has played a major role in brokering a power transfer deal that saw former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh replaced by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

Hadi has repeatedly vowed to continue to hunt down the jihadists.

Earlier this year, Yemeni troops launched an all-out offensive against the militants who had taken over a string of towns and cities in the southern Abyan province, regaining the army's control on the province.