SANAA, Dec 28: A gunman shot dead the deputy leader of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) at a conference here on Saturday in the latest violence to hit the troubled Arabian peninsula republic.
Police and witnesses said Jarallah Omar was hit twice in the chest with bullets fired from a pistol and died on his way to hospital.
He had just given a speech in the name of the YSP rejecting violence at the opening of a conference of the Al Islah Party.
The killer was named as Ali Jarallah, believed to follow the hardline Salafi branch.
He was studying at Yemen’s Al Iman university, which is run by controversial Al Islah thinker Sheikh Abul Majid al-Zindani and was closed briefly last year as a hotbed of extremism.
The interior ministry said he was an “extremist” member of Al Islah who had been arrested previously for “incitement to violence against the state” and freed after the party’s leadership intervened.
Al Islah said the party “strongly condemns this criminal act by a recidivist,” and called for “severe punishment”.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) condemned the murder as an “atrocious crime”.
“Terrorism will not dissuade us from continuing along the path of democracy,” the party said in a statement.
Armed bodyguards protecting Yemen’s parliament speaker and al-Islah leader, Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, overpowered the gunman and took him to the sheikh’s house. He was turned over to police a few hours later, a source in Ahmar’s entourage said.
The interior ministry had called for Ahmar to hand over the man so that he could be put on trial.
Omar, who was in his 60s, was leaving the conference hall alongside a correspondent for Al-Jazeera television when the gunman walked up and opened fire, witnesses said.
The Qatar-based satellite station showed dramatic footage of two men dragging wounded Omar from amongst a crowd of people to take him to hospital.
His feet banged against a stone staircase leading from the hall before he was shoved into the back of a four-wheel drive vehicle.—AFP