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Yemeni School Denies that American Man Reportedly Shot by an Al Qaeda-Linked Group Was Proselytizing

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"one of the biggest American proselytizers."

As The Blaze reported over the weekend, an al Qaeda-linked group has allegedly claimed responsibility for executing an American English teacher in Yemen. The individual, Joel Shrum, was accused of "proselytizing" and was apparently killed on his way to work on Sunday. Now, the school where he worked is denying that Shrum was engaged in faith conversion.

Shrum, who was from the Harrisburg, Pa., area, had been working at the International Training Development Centre for two years. CBN News has more regarding the tragic incident:

Officials said a motorcycle gunman and an accomplice pulled alongside the vehicle that American Joel Shrum was riding in and opened fire.

Shrum was on his way to work in the city of Taiz at the time of the attack. He served as deputy director of the Swedish Institute, a language school...

The assailants escaped after the shooting, but an al Qaeda-linked group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

A statement from the International Training Development Centre in Taiz identified the victim as Joel Shrum, an American development worker living in Yemen with his wife and two children since 2010.

The school denied that Shrum was proselytizing, saying that he "highly respected" Islam. It said Muslims and Christians work together on "human development, skill transfer and community development" projects there and that religious and political debates are not permitted.

The release said the school "is calling on the Yemeni people to rise up and rejects the hatred and violence in their country."

Ansar al-Sharia (translation: Partisans of Islamic Law), the group behind the murder, allegedly sent a message to journalists that directly mentioned Christianity and the West. The message, which came from an unnamed source who claimed to represent the terror group, read, "This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims." The letter also dubbed Shrum "one of the biggest American proselytizers."

"He was just motivated by especially seeing people coming out of poverty," Shrum's father, James, told The (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.

YDR.com has more about Shrum:

At Donegal High School, Shrum was a standout football player, earning first- team All Lancaster-Lebanon League honors on both offense and defense in 1999.

He was captain of the 1999 team, one of the few juniors ever voted that honor.

Shrum's former coach at Donegal, Gayne Deshler, remembered Shrum and his younger brother, Justin, "as the kind of kids that hung on every word. They were more about the team than themselves."

He said the two brothers and other family members went to South America and Mexico for church-related work.

 

In the Human Rights Watch World Report 2012, Ansar al-Sharia is mentioned explicitly, as are some of the issues the terror group caused in Yemen in 2011:

In May the government...launched a military campaign in Abyan province against Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), an armed group reportedly backed by Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Ansar al-Sharia had previously captured two provincial cities, Zinjibar and Jaar. On May 20, Central Security forces opened fire with assault rifles in a crowded market in Zinjibar, killing six merchants and shoppers and wounding three dozen others. The forces opened fire after a car bomb nearby killed four members of Central Security, but there were no reports of militants or other suspects inside the market.

A text message that circulated by mobile phone in Yemen said that "holy warriors" had killed "a senior missionary" in the central city of Taiz, shortly after the teacher was shot dead Sunday by two gunmen on a motorcycle.

It was impossible to confirm the claim of responsibility. Al-Qaida and other militant groups are active in Yemen, which has suffered a breakdown of central state authority during the country's yearlong uprising.

Taiz security director Ali al-Saidi said Monday that the investigation is still ongoing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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