Teacher shot dead at Swedish school in Yemen

A teacher at a Swedish school in Yemen was gunned down by an unknown perpetrator on Sunday in an attack claimed by some to be a response to what is perceived as Christian proselytising.

Teacher shot dead at Swedish school in Yemen

The school, ITDC (International Training and Development center) was opened in 1969 as a joint venture between the Pentecostal Church in Sundsvall, northern Sweden, and the Swedish Pentecostal Missionary movement.

The victim was the school’s English language teacher and deputy director, American Joel Shrun, who had been living in Taiz with his wife and two children since 2010.

“He was on his way from his home in his car when he was caught up by a motorcycle. They shot him through the window. It is terrible,” confirmed Ulf Edström, deputy head of the Pentecostal church in Sundsvall, to daily Expressen.

Soon after, a militant Islamist group which police believe is affiliated to al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), claimed he had been targeted because of his Christian “proselytizing”, reported British paper The Guardian.

According to the paper, a text message which was dispatched to the press claimed that Shrun’s murder had been “a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the west has launched against Muslims.” Shrun was depicted as “one of the biggest American proselytizers”.

Islamist militant groups often accuse western aid groups of covert religious missionary work, the paper said.

Edström told Expressen that the threat against the school had gotten worse lately.

“It’s been on and off, but people like our school. The American drone attacks in Yemen have made it worse, though. Al-Qaeda is searching for westerners,” he said.

The school, which offers vocational training, takes in some 300-350 students each year.

Edström told the paper that it is not a religious school, despite building on a Christian value system to help bring people out of social adversity and poverty.

According to him, the shooting is a tragedy for the school, but also for the people of Yemen.

”It is they who are suffering and are the most affected when militant groups try to kill those who want to help,” Edström told Expressen.

The Local/rm

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Sweden to host UN Yemen talks

The United Nations intends to convene peace talks on Yemen soon after receiving firm assurances from the parties that they will attend negotiations in Sweden, the UN envoy said Friday.

Sweden to host UN Yemen talks
Yemen's Deputy UN ambassador Marwan Ali Noman Al-Dobhany during a meeting last month of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen at UN headquarters. Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews/TT

The Saudi-backed government and the Huthi rebels have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution to end a war that has driven millions to the brink of famine, Martin Griffiths told the Security Council.

“With this in mind, I intend to reconvene the parties shortly and to do so in Sweden,” he said. “I believe we are close to resolving issues to make this happen.”

“I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties … that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”

Griffiths plans to travel to the rebel-held capital of Sanaa next week to finalize arrangements and offered to travel with the Huthi delegation to Sweden “if that's what is needed.”

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has agreed to “logistical arrangements” to pave the way for talks including medical evacuations out of Sanaa, he added.

Griffiths announced he was close to reaching a deal on an exchange of prisoners and detainees, in a further confidence-building measure ahead of planned talks.

The United Nations had announced talks in Geneva in September that never materialized after the Huthis put forward last-minute demands.

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen since March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Huthis and restore to power Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations.

Pressure to end the Saudi-led military campaign has grown following the killing by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which sparked global outrage.

Back from a visit to Yemen, the head of the UN World Food Programme warned that the country faces a full-blown famine in about six months because of the economic collapse from the war.

“What I have seen in Yemen this week is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery,” David Beasley told the council. “Children are already dying.”

Eight million people are affected by severe food shortages, according to UN officials, who warn that up to 14 million — or half of Yemen's population — are at risk of famine.

“This is a crucial moment for Yemen,” Grffiths said of the talks in Sweden, warning that a flareup of fighting on the ground could derail the peace effort. No date for the talks was announced.

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