Japanese diplomat escapes Yemen attack

Japanese diplomat in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a was stabbed by armed men after he resisted a kidnapping attempt

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Assailants stabbed a Japanese diplomat repeatedly Sunday when he fought back during a failed kidnapping attempt in the Yemeni capital, the latest spate of attacks on foreigners in the country.

The consul and second secretary at the embassy in Sana’a suffered five stab wounds in the morning attack in the Hadda neighborhood, Agence France-Presse reported an embassy spokesman as saying.


A taxi carrying two armed men pulled over in front of the diplomat’s car while he was driving alone on his way to the embassy and attacked him with a knife, a spokesman of the Japanese embassy in Sana’a told Reuters by telephone.

The diplomats had been driving without guards, he added.

Meanwhile, witnesses told AFP that six masked men attacked the diplomat in a small street, about 250 meters (820 feet) away from the Japanese mission.

They pulled him out of his car and one of the assailants hit him on the head with a pistol butt, before pushing him to the ground and driving off in his vehicle.

Local residents said they administered first aid in a nearby shop, until an embassy vehicle arrived and took him away.

Japan issues warning

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato confirmed that an embassy official was attacked by an unspecified number of armed robbers as he tried to get into his car.

“We are still in the process of confirming and gathering information about the attack,” the Associated Press quoted Sato as saying.

He declined to give further details, though he noted that Japan’s Foreign Ministry has issued a safety warning to Japanese tourists and residents in the area, citing the increasing danger of attack.

Yemeni media identified the diplomat as Katsusuke Sotomini, as did an official at the embassy in Sana’a who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press due to regulations.

An Associated Press journalist some 200 meters (220 yards) away from the embassy found blood stains where the attack apparently took place.

Also, an AFP correspondent found traces of blood in the street.

Dr. Atiq al-Maori of the Saudi-Germany Hospital in Sana’a said the diplomat suffered “multiple injuries” to his forearm and shoulder in the attack.

“We will keep him for observation to continue the treatment,” the doctor told the Associated Press. “His medical situation is stable.”

A spokesman told AFP that the diplomat is “ok now. He is in hospital.”

Another security source told Reuters that the diplomat was also in a stable condition in the hospital after being stabbed in the head and hand with a dagger.

Yemen’s political turmoil has created a security vacuum, which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

The U.S. regularly carries out drone strikes in the country targeting who it says are militants belonging to the group.

Kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen is common, often carried out by disgruntled tribesmen seeking to press the government to free jailed relatives or to improve public services, or by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Some previous incidents compiled by AFP:

A Dutch couple was set free last week after spending six months in captivity.

In late November, unidentified gunmen killed a Belarussian defense contractor and wounded another in an attack outside their hotel in Sana’a.

A German embassy guard was killed in October last month as he resisted an attempt to kidnap him.

Hit-and-run assassinations are frequent in Yemen and are mostly blamed on Al-Qaeda militants, or stem from tribal disputes.

The United Nations closed its offices in Sana’a on Thursday over fears of possible car bombs attacks, and the American and Turkish schools were shut, but Western embassies remained opened.

The alert came after a December 5 brazen daylight attack on the defense ministry complex in Sana’a that killed 56 people, among them expatriate medical staff.

In August, a security alert originating in Yemen prompted an unprecedented closure of American embassies across and beyond the Middle East.

Yemen has been battling through a tough political transition since veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted from power in February 2012, following a year of deadly protests against his 33-year rule.

The transition aims to culminate in a new constitution and pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections in February 2014, but it faces many hurdles.

(With AFP, AP and Reuters)

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