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Yemeni Politician Dies at Party’s Congress

December 28, 2002

SAN’A, Yemen (AP) _ A senior leftist politician was shot to death Saturday after speaking at an Islamic political party’s congress.

Jarallah Omar, the deputy secretary general of the Yemeni Socialist party, was gunned down minutes after delivering a speech at the annual congress of the Islamic Reform Party in the capital, San’a.

He died en route to the hospital, said Seif Tayel, a Socialist party official.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh condemned the killing and said Omar was a ``victim of violence and extremism,″ the country’s official news agency reported. The assassin, Saleh said, was ``one of those who believed in violence as a method of imposing their rigid and extreme views.″

An Interior Ministry official identified the assailant as Ali al-Jarallah and said he was a member of the Islamic Reform Party, the official Yemeni news agency Saba reported.

The official said al-Jarallah was ``an extremist who had served time for trying to provoke violent sentiments against the government. He was released recently on the intervention of Islamic Reform Party leaders.″

The party issued a statement denying al-Jarallah was a member.

Police said they arrested al-Jarallah at the house of parliamentary speaker Abdullah al-Ahmar, where security agents initially questioned him. Al-Ahmar heads the Islamic Reform Party, the second-largest bloc in Yemen’s legislature.

During questioning, al-Jarallah said people like Omar belonged to ``secular infidel parties and had to be killed,″ the Islamic Reform official told The Associated Press.

Al-Jarallah was an army officer who fought in Yemen’s 1994 civil war, the official said.

In a statement, the Socialist party condemned the shooting as a ``politically motivated assassination.″

Omar was one of several rival party leaders invited to address the Islamic Reform party assembly. His Socialist party is seen as the most popular opposition group in Yemen, but is not represented in parliament because it boycotted the last elections in 1997.

The Socialists ruled southern Yemen before the country united in 1990. Omar was appointed culture minister in Yemen’s first government following unification.

When leftist southerners took up arms to secede in 1994, President Ali Abdullah Saleh formed an alliance with Islamic militants and fundamentalists to defeat them. He brought the Islamic Reform party into a coalition government.

Islamic Reform later left the coalition but gained influence through the partnership.

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