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Yemeni forces kill al-Qaida commander in Sanaa

SANAA, Yemen -- Yemeni security forces killed an al-Qaida commander suspected of masterminding a wave of kidnap attempts targeting Western diplomats in a nighttime operation in the capital, a spokesman said on Friday.

The operation came amid a security alert in Sanaa that prompted the closure of the U.S. Embassy on Thursday as troops backed by U.S. drones pressed an offensive in the south.

Shayef Mohammed Said al-Shabwani was “one of al-Qaida's most dangerous and wanted commanders ... suspected of involvement in abductions and killings of Yemeni police and foreigners,” the spokesman told state news agency Saba.

He was stopped in a car close to the presidential palace with four other people, one of whom was also killed in an exchange of fire when they resisted arrest, the spokesman said.

The other three were arrested, two of them wounded, he added.

Security forces have been on high alert in Sanaa since the army launched a highly publicized offensive against al-Qaida in its southern strongholds late last month, drawing open threats of retaliation.

Late Thursday, unidentified assailants opened fire on guards outside the Saudi embassy without hitting anyone, a security source said.

The culprits escaped after the drive-by shooting, the source added.

There has been a wave of kidnap attempts against Western embassy personnel in the capital in recent weeks, some of them deadly.

Also on Thursday, troops entered the town of Azzan, the second largest in Shabwa province, from which Shabwani takes his name.

The jihadists had controlled much of Shabwa and hill districts of neighboring Abyan and Baida provinces since 2011.

Drone Strikes Killed Scores

The ground offensive began on April 29 in mountainous southern and central provinces, where a wave of U.S. drone strikes killed scores of suspected al-Qaida militants last month.

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