The employers of an American man killed while working in Yemen said in a statement Monday that he “highly respected” Islam, after a group tied to al-Qaida claimed it had executed him because of his “Christian proselytizing.”
Joel Shrum, a teacher at the International Training Development Center, was shot dead Sunday in the city of Taiz where he worked.
A group linked to al-Qaida, Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), claimed responsibility.
"This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims," an unidentified person said in a text message to journalists, claiming responsibility on behalf of the group.
In its statement Monday, the International Training Development Center said that the man it identified only as “Joel S.” was driving from his house to its office in Taiz when he was shot dead by armed men on a motorcycle.
“Unfortunately Mr. Shrum has been accused of being a part of proselytizing campaign, but the staff of ITDC, which consists of Muslims and Christians working together, has continually focused on human development, skill transfer and community development,” the statement said.
“In ITDC's cooperative environment, Muslims students are highly respected and observe religious prayers on the property. Overall, religious and political debates are not permitted at ITDC,” it added. “Joel S. was a very professional employee who highly respected the Islamic religion. ITDC is calling on the Yemeni people to rise up and rejects this hatred and violence in their country.”
The statement said the ITDC facility in Taiz was closed and the security of the foreign staff members was being addressed.
NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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