CAIRO - The school employing an American teacher killed by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen has denied accusations he was proselytizing Christianity, saying he highly respected the Islamic faith.
Joel S. was a very professional employee who highly respected the Islamic religion, the International Training Development Center said in a statement cited by NBC News on Monday, March 19.
Joel Shrum, a teacher, was gunned down by a gunman riding a motorcycle in the southern city of Taiz on Sunday.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said the American teacher was gunned down for proselytizing in the Arab country.
"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.
The message called Shrun "one of the biggest American proselytizers".
But the ITDC denied claims that the teacher was a missionary.
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, it 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.
Militants often accuse Western aid groups of covert religious missionary work.
Later on Sunday, unidentified gunmen clashed with security forces in the southern city of Aden.
Two passersby, a man and a woman, were killed and several were wounded, residents and medics said.
The school called on Yemenis to rise up against militants in the Arab Peninsula country.
ITDC is calling on the Yemeni people to rise up and rejects this hatred and violence in their country.
Yemen has seen an escalation of Al-Qaeda violence since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took office last month after a year of massive protests against his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Daily clashes break out around the areas controlled by the militants in the south, and at times with armed supporters of a southern separatist movement which has also stepped up its activities in the past year.
Ansar al-Sharia captured Jaar in Abyan Province in March last year after the outbreak of protests against Saleh and have turned it into their main base in southern Yemen.
An official told Reuters that up to 14 militants were killed in artillery attacks and clashes on Saturday north of the Abyan provincial capital of Zinjibar, the area of Bagdar and the town of Jaar.
Also on Sunday, a government warplane bombed militants in the southern city of Jaar, causing people to flee their homes. There were no immediate reports of casualties.In early March, militants killed more than 110 soldiers in twin suicide attacks and a raid on their outposts in which the militant group also said it captured some 70 soldiers.