Jarallah Omar, a Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) leader and former minister, was gunned down during the conservative/religious Islah party conference on 28 December. He had just finished a speech warning against political violence.

Two days later, three US citizens were shot dead and another was seriously injured when a man burst into a staff meeting at Jibla hospital and opened fire. Abed Abdulrazzaq Kamel, who was immediately arrested for the shooting, said he attacked the hospital because of its close links to a Christian missionary organisation.

The government says Kamel admitted to being a member of Islamic Jihad, which was established in the early 1990s by Sheikh Tariq al-Fadhli, a former South Yemen landowner who was dispossessed during the communist rule. Islamic Jihad fought alongside Islah regiments against YSP-led southern secessionists during the 1994 civil war.

The two shootings have put a new strain on the fragile US-Yemeni relationship, which has emerged since 11 September as both countries strive to counter Islamist terrorist groups working in Yemen. In November, six suspected Al-Qaeda members were killed in an attack by an unmanned US aircraft, an attack that Yemen now says it requested. In December, relations were again tested when the US seized a shipment of North Korean scud missiles en route to Yemen.

Sanaa on the day of the Jibla attack released a strongly-worded report on militant activity in the country. ‘We must be honest with ourselves and with you in dealing with this dangerous phenomenon, which is still at its beginning and we believe that it is still possible to put an end to it through unified efforts and voices,’ said Prime Minister Abdulqader Bajammal, who presented the report to parliament.