Two American embassy officers shot and killed two Yemeni civilians trying to kidnap the Americans in Yemen's capital last month, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to the New York Times Saturday. The pair of Americans involved in the incident have since left the country, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told the Times.
The Times first reported the incident Friday, citing unnamed American officials. The original Times report claimed the attempted kidnapping and subsequent shootout involved a U.S. Special Operations commando and a Central Intelligence Agency officer attached to the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and took place at a Sanaa barber shop.
The incident comes at a tumultuous time for Yemen's embattled government. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has lost popularity among many Yemenis by allowing American drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda members. The strikes, which sometimes result in civilian deaths, are fiercely unpopular among Yemenis, and militants have stepped up their attacks against the government in response to the drone strikes.
Yemeni officials have remained largely silent about the shootings, though a spokesman for Yemen's Interior Ministry said Saturday that two non-Yemeni foreigners targeted for abduction fired on their Yemini would-be abductors. Yemeni media did not report at the time that the shooters were American.
The episode could further damage the Yemeni government's domestic reputation if it is perceived that it covered up the identities of the American officers.