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US Diplomat Shot Dead in Jordan

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U.S. diplomat shot dead in Jordan

USAID official killed outside home in Amman

NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES

AMMAN, Jordan, Oct. 28 — A senior U.S. diplomat was shot to death outside his home on Monday in Amman, the first ever killing of a Western diplomat in Jordan. Security was immediately increased at embassies and diplomatic missions. In an unusual scene for Amman, red beret-clad special forces riding machine-gun equipped jeeps escorted diplomatic vehicles through the city.

THE DIPLOMAT, identified as Laurence Foley of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, was killed at 7:30 a.m., Jordanian security officials told The Associated Press on condition on anonymity.

Foley, 62, was shot at least seven times in the head and chest as he approached his car , according to a senior Jordanian security official. The bullets came from a 7 mm pistol, he said.

While initial reports spoke of “gunmen,” the official said the preliminary investigation indicated that one gunman, working with accomplices, killed Foley.

No one has claimed responsibility for the murder.

Information Minister Mohammed Affash Adwan said he did not know if the killing was a terrorist incident but said that “this attack, regardless of its motives and reasons, is an aggression on Jordan and its national security. We will not tolerate that at all.”

JORDAN’S REGIONAL ROLE

U.S. Embassy said in a statement that U.S. authorities “are working closely with Jordanian officials to investigate this horrible crime.” The embassy warned Americans to “remain vigilant.”

In Washington, U.S. officials told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the Bush administration was very concerned because the attack was able to be carried out despite Jordan’s strong intelligence network.

Jordan is also known for its tight security, but several attacks have been directed against Israelis in Amman and along the Jordanian-Israel border.

One Israeli businessman was shot and killed last year in the same neighborhood as Foley, and two Israeli diplomats were wounded by gunshots in 2000.

Larry Foley, shown in a photo published on the USAID.gov Web site with a statement about his assassination in Jordan on Monday.

Jordan’s alliance with the United States and its 1994 peace treaty with Israel have made the kingdom a target for Muslim militants.

Jordan is also a major U.S. ally in the Middle East, supporting Washington’s policies in the region. The slaying comes at a tense time in the region, with many in the Arab world angry at the United States for its push for a war to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and for what Arabs regard as biased U.S. support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.

KIDNAPPING TIP

On Sept. 27, the U.S. government said it received uncorroborated information that a member of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network was considering kidnapping U.S. citizens in Jordan.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the government had no information to determine the threat’s credibility or any indication of the plan’s timing. But he added that the U.S. Embassy in Jordan warned American residents in the Arab kingdom.

Two years ago, 28 Arab men plotted to use poison gas and explosives in attacks against Americans and Israelis in hotels and tourist sites during New Year celebrations in Jordan. The plot was foiled in November 1999.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is an independent American government organization that provides economic development and humanitarian aid. In Jordan, the agency is working to improve water resources management, access to health care and more economic opportunities for the country’s 5.1 million residents.

IN THE LINE OF FIRE

U.S. diplomats have been assassinated in the line of duty before, including Cleo Noel, who was assassinated in 1973 in Khartoum while serving as ambassador to Sudan. Adolph Dubs, the ambassador to Afghanistan, was assassinated in 1979 during an exchange of gunfire between Islamic extremists who had kidnapped him and Afghan security forces.

Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens, Greece, was assassinated by the terror group November 17 in December 1975.

In 1974, Roger Davies, the ambassador to Cyprus was assassinated in Nicosia.

All 12 Americans killed in the Aug. 7, 1998 embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, were diplomats. The car bombing of the U.S. Embassy, which has been linked to al-Qaida, was the most deadly attack on Americans assigned to a U.S. diplomatic mission ever and the last recorded slaying of an American diplomat overseas.

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