Yemeni journalist killed by unknown gunmen

March 18, 2015 4:13 PM ET

Beirut, March 18, 2015--Two gunmen today shot dead an award-winning journalist and politician outside his house in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a, local and international news outlets reported. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder.

Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani was gunned down by men on a motorcycle as he came out of his home, the journalist's son said, according to news reports. Al-Khaiwani was taken to a local hospital, but died of his wounds.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports.

The murder comes in the midst of ongoing political and military clashes between multiple factions in the country. In September 2014, Houthi rebels overran Sana'a and other cities, forcing the government to resign and eventually prompting President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi to flee to Aden in the south, according to news reports. Houthi forces have also clashed with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

"We call on all sides in Yemen to rise above their political differences and work together to ensure the perpetrators are brought to account," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, from New York.

Al-Khaiwani was the former editor of Al-Shoura news website, which was in opposition to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At the paper, he wrote editorials that criticized Saleh's policies. In recent years, al-Khaiwani wrote commentaries for local news websites that discussed the political situation in the country.

Al-Khaiwani, always active in politics, became increasingly aligned with the Houthi movement after the uprising that ousted Saleh. He eventually represented the group in the reconciliation dialogue whose purpose was to forge a transition following the ouster, according to Agence France-Presse.

Al-Khaiwani was attacked and imprisoned in recent years in connection with his work, according to CPJ research. In 2008, the journalist was sentenced to six years in prison on the basis of interviews he conducted and articles he wrote that authorities said showed he had conspired with a Houthi rebel leader. Al-Khaiwani served only four months before being pardoned. He was also imprisoned in 2004, CPJ research shows. In 2007, gunmen abducted, beat, and threatened him in connection with an article that criticized Saleh.

In 2008, he was awarded Amnesty International's Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat.

As the security situation deteriorates in the country, journalists have been caught in the crossfire. One journalist, Khaled al-Washli, a Yemeni correspondent for the Houthi-owned Al Masirah TV, died when a bomb exploded in the city of Dhamar on January 4, 2015. The same day, AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports.

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