Two gunmen shot dead al-Khaiwani, an award-winning journalist and politician, outside his house in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, local and international news outlets reported. Al-Khaiwani was gunned down by men on a motorcycle, his son said, according to news reports. He was taken to a local hospital, but died of his wounds.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Twitter the next day, according to news reports. The statement said two “mujihadeen” riding motorcycles had opened fire on “the Houthi leader Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani” and the gunmen successfully fled from the scene.
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 the years before his death, 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 Saleh’s ouster, according to Agence France-Presse.
The murder came in the midst of 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).
Al-Khaiwani was attacked and imprisoned in the years prior to his death, according to CPJ research. In 2008, he 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.