NBC reports that a gunman has fatally shot an American teacher in the Yemeni province of Taiz on Sunday, two defense ministry officials confirmed.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the terror network’s affiliate in Yemen — claimed responsibility for killing the American, NBC reports.
In a text message sent to Yemeni media outlets, the group said the victim was spreading Christianity to the Yemeni people, calling him one of the biggest missionaries in the country.
But the International Training and Development Center said the victim — whom it identified as “Joel S.” — was not a missionary.
“He was an American development worker who had been working in Yemen with his wife and two children since 2010,” when he began working for the education center, the ITDC said.
“Unfortunately Joel S. has been accused of being a part of a proselytizing campaign, but the staff of ITDC, which consists of Muslims, Christians and other religions working together, has continually focused on human development, skill transfer and community development,” the center said. “Joel S. was a very professional employee who highly respected the Islamic religion.”
Authorities have not said who killed the teacher, whom the head of security in the province, Mohamed Saidi, identified as Joel Sharm.
The U.S. Embassy in the capital Sanaa said it had heard reports of an American death and was investigating. It did not confirm an American had been killed.
On Thursday, tribesmen demanding the release of prisoners kidnapped a female Swiss teacher in Hodeida on the Red Sea coast, officials said.
Imprisoned tribesmen are being held in the Hodeida Central Prison for disturbing travelers and creating roadblocks.
In Sunday’s attack, two men on a motorcycle fired eight shots at the teacher who was on his way to work at a Swedish language center in the provincial capital, the defense ministry officials said.
“We are investigating the killing as this is the first of its kind against a western national in Taiz,” one of the defense officials said. Neither wanted to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
Yemen has been fighting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for years, with mixed results.