ADEN, Yemen – Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen on Thursday shot dead a Yemeni man because they believed he was gay, a security official told French European news service AFP Thursday.
The official stated that an “armed Al-Qaeda suspects on a motorbike opened fire on 29-year-old Salem Ahmed Hasan in a market in Huta (Hawta),” killing him instantly, at the capital of the southern province of Lahj.
The man was targeted as the attackers thought he was gay, added the official. Four other men have been killed on suspicion of being gay, in similar attacks in Huta this year.
In July a suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen was reported to have shot and wounded a man only days after another man was killed in similar circumstances.
Al-Qaeda, known locally as Ansar al-Sharia, is active mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
Although Yemeni government troops have since recaptured much of the territory with support from U.S. drone strikes, the group still has several active bases in east of the country, often carrying hit-and-run attacks using unlicensed motorbikes.
The Islamist militants impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on residents who live under their control, executing or lashing citizens they accused of various crimes, including severing the hands of many accused of burglary.
Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen, and it is one of only seven countries to apply a death penalty for consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex.
Aljazeera Online reported in May 2004 that three journalists had been punished by a Yemeni court for writing an article about homosexuality that included interviews with men jailed for homosexuality (May 15 2004).
The court ruled that the journalists had “violated Yemeni morals and customs.”