Al-Qaeda has placed a $160,000 bounty on the head of the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen and $23,000 for the assassination of any American soldiers in the country.
An audio produced by the group’s media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation, and posted on militant websites Saturday said it offered three kilograms of gold for the killing of Ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein.
The bounties were set to ‘inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad,’ the statement said.
Focus on the safety of American diplomats abroad has intensified since Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
He was the first U.S. Ambassador assassinated in the line of duty since 1979. His death, and the security at the consulate compound, have been the focus of intense scrutiny by Congress – especially Republicans who have criticized the White Housing handling of the attack.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the group is called, is considered Al-Qaeda’s most dangerous branch.
The terrorist cell, thought to have up to 600 members, overran entire towns and villages last year by taking advantage of a security lapse during nationwide protests that eventually ousted the country’s longtime ruler.
It has been responsible for numerous assassinations in the capital Sanaa, including the shooting of a Yemeni security guard outside the U.S. Embassy in October.
In late November, the Yemeni government blamed a drive-by shooting that killed a Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard on the local al-Qaeda branch.
The U.S. military and CIA have been waging a covert war against the terrorist cell for years.
In September 2011, an American drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born terrorist leader believed to be behind an attempted bomb attack on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit.
Yemen’s army was able to regain control of several al-Qaeda towns the southern region with the support of U.S. military experts.
However, militants continue to launch deadly attacks on security forces that have killed hundreds.
In the capital, Sanaa, security officials said two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed two intelligence officers early Sunday as they were leaving a downtown security facility.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations, said all intelligence and security officers have been instructed to take precautionary measures outside working hours.
The government blames al-Qaeda for the killing of several senior military and intelligence officials this year mainly by gunmen on motorbikes.
The officials said security authorities in Sanaa have launched a campaign against motorcyclists suspected of involvement in these attacks or other crimes, arresting about 200 for questioning for violations, including driving motorcycles without license plates.
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