SANAA - Assailants riding a motorbike on Sunday gunned down an American teacher in Yemen’s second city of Taez, an official said, with an Al-Qaeda-linked group claiming it killed him.

The gunmen opened fire on the man while he was in his car in Sena neighbhourhood of the city 270 kilometres southwest of Sanaa, the security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The slain man was an American who had been working in Taez as the deputy director of a Swedish language centre, he added.

Ansar al-Sharia, or Partisans of Sharia - a group linked to Al-Qaeda - claimed responsibility for the attack. Its fighters ‘killed an American Christian missionary’, said a statement circulated by a mobile phone message and confirmed by a source close to the group. “The attack is in response to a Western campaign to preach Christianity among Muslims,” it said. The statement confirmed the suspicions of another security official that the attack was the work of Al-Qaeda.

The US embassy in Sanaa said it did not have any information about the killing and that it was investigating the report. The US says the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is the most active branch of the global terror network.

Witnesses said however that the attackers were dressed in the uniform of the elite Republican Guard, led by the son of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed.