Yemen guard kills Frenchman working for Austria's OMV

6th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Frenchman working for Austrian energy group OMV in Yemen was shot dead on Wednesday and a British colleague hospitalised by a soldier guarding the firm's Sanaa compound, OMV and security officials said.

"The armed guard opened fire on the director, crying Allah Akbar (God is greatest)," one of the officials said, without specifying whether the attack was motivated by personal or other reasons.

OMV confirmed that a contractor employee with French nationality who was working for the company as procurement officer "died in a hospital in Yemen today."

A British national, described as an expert who worked at the company's branch office, was also wounded in the attack and "is now under medical treatment in a hospital in Sanaa," it added.

The Austrian firm said it saw "no political background for the action taken by the Yemeni security guard," which took place at 9:00 am local time (0600 GMT).

The soldier, who was guarding the company's Yemen headquarters in Haddah on the outskirts of Sanaa, was disarmed and arrested, security officials said, adding that he was being interrogated.

The headquarters were surrounded by police following the attack.

The French foreign ministry also confirmed "the death by shooting of a French national working for SPIE, subcontracted to the Austrian company OMV at Sanaa in Yemen," it said a statement.

The French embassy in Sanaa and the foreign ministry's own crisis centre had been mobilised to support the dead man's relatives and to work with Yemeni authorities to establish what led to the death, it added.

The Austrian group has had a sizeable presence in Yemen since it acquired the German firm Preussag Energie in 2003, with three large exploration and production licenses and daily oil output of around 6,500 barrels per day.

In July, Al-Qaeda militants launched an attack near one of the OMV-operated oil fields in the southeast Shabwa province, which killed six soldiers and two jihadists.

The firm, which has dozens of Austrian engineers working in the region, said the attack took place between 20 and 30 kilometres (12 to 20 miles) from the field, but insisted there were no indication that it was a "direct attack" on OMV.

Also on Wednesday, Britain's foreign ministry said a British embassy staffer suffered minor injuries when the car he was travelling in with four colleagues in a Sanaa street was targeted by what police said was a rocket-propelled grenade.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula and the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's, faces a growing threat from the local branch of the jihadist network.

© 2010 AFP

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