SANAA, Yemen – The school employing an American teacher gunned down in Yemen has denied accusations that he was proselytizing Christianity.
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 Qaeda 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.
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."
The (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era identified Shrum, 30, as a former resident of the central Pennsylvania town of Mount Joy.
Shrum's father told the newspaper his son loved his job. "He was just motivated by especially seeing people coming out of poverty," James Shrum said.
Joel Shrum had last talked to his family on Friday, discussing a planned vacation together this summer, the newspaper reported.
Shrum was a standout football player at Donegal High School, where former coach Gayne Deshler remembered him as a team-first player. Deshler told the newspaper he worried about Shrum and other family members who did church worker abroad, fearing the kind of violence that took Shrum's life.
"They were the kind of family you could see doing that because they were always more interested in other people than themselves," he said.