AMMAN, Jordan – An American diplomat was shot dead outside his house in the Jordanian capital Monday morning in what may have been a terrorist assassination.
The U.S. Embassy identified the dead man as Laurence Foley, an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Jordan, which handles foreign aid and humanitarian programs.
Foley, 60, died instantly when an assassin pumped eight shots into his head, chest and abdomen outside his home in Amman. It was the first known killing of a Western envoy in the capital.
Anti-American sentiment has been rising in Jordan, a U.S. ally, with public opinion opposed to a threatened U.S. attack on Iraq, Jordan's eastern neighbor and primary trading partner.
The kingdom's 1994 peace treaty with Israel also has made it a target for Muslim militants and terrorist groups.
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Affash Adwan would not speculate on whether terrorists were involved, but called the attack "an aggression on Jordan and its national security."
Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher went to the U.S. Embassy to express condolences and promised swift action to catch the shooter.
"The Jordanian government is going to deal seriously with this horrible crime," the Jordanian news agency Petra quoted him as saying.
The gunman escaped and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The 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."
The estimated 3,000-strong American community in Jordan generally consider Amman safe, despite occasional warnings of security threats.
The American Embassy in Amman, one of the largest in the Mideast, is known as "the fortress" for its high walls and sprawling structure. Anti-American demonstrations are less common and smaller than in other Arab capitals, and usually tied to protests against Israel.
Security was immediately increased at other embassies and diplomatic missions. In an unusual scene for Amman, red beret-clad special forces riding jeeps mounted with machine-guns escorted diplomatic vehicles through the city.
Foley was shot as he walked to his car at 7:30 a.m., according to a senior Jordanian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The bullets came from a 7 mm pistol, he said.
Foley died instantly, Adwan said.
While initial reports spoke of "gunmen," the official said the preliminary investigation indicated that one gunman, working with accomplices, killed Foley. Doctors who performed the autopsy recovered eight bullets -- all the same type -- from the head, chest and abdomen.
Jordanian security officials said Foley's wife called police after the attack outside his house in a middle-class district of Amman.
Neighbors said they did not hear any gunshots, raising questions about whether a silencer was used. The Jordanian security official said only that the attack was apparently "well-organized and well-planned."
Large numbers of police searched the shooting scene for fingerprints and other evidence.
"We are all sad for his killing because he and his wife were a nice couple and everybody liked them in the neighborhood," said one veiled woman, who gave her name only as Um-Ayman.
Another Jordanian neighbor, Um-Saeed Sbeih, said Foley and his wife would walk their dog every day and always wave and greet them in Arabic.
"It is a hideous crime, who ever did it should be punished," she said. "Why should ordinary people get killed and punished for the crimes of their leaders? We like the American people and we were happy to have this man as a neighbor."
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.
Jordan is known for its tight security, but several attacks have been directed against Israelis in Amman and along the Jordanian-Israel border. Jordan and Egypt are the two Arab states that have signed peace treaties with Israel.
On Sept. 27, the U.S. government said had received uncorroborated information indicating that, as of this summer, a member of Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network was considering a plan to kidnap U.S. citizens in Jordan.
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said then that the government could not determine whether the threat was credible or when it would be implemented.
But the U.S. Embassy in Jordan notified Americans to be vigilant, and renewed that warning Monday.
Two years ago, a group of 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 here. The plot was uncovered and 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.
Scores of American diplomats have been killed in line of duty, several of them victims of terror groups.
Five U.S. ambassadors have fallen victim to terrorists. They were Gordon Mein, killed in Guatemala in 1968; Cleo A. Noel, in Sudan, in 1973; Rodger Davies, in Cyprus, in 1974; Francis E. Meloy Jr., in Lebanon in June 1978; and Adolph Dubs, in Afghanistan, in 1979.
Arnold L. Raphel, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, was killed in 1988 in an attack on President Zia's airplane, but they slaying was not listed as an incident of terrorism.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.