OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The violence in Yemen hit home when an Oakland man was killed in a rebel attack earlier this week.
Jamal al-Labani is the first U.S. citizen killed in Yemen in this most recent conflict.
Saturday, his family and friends gathered in Hayward to mourn his death. They want the State Department to step in and help Americans like al-Labani, who are still trapped in that war-torn county. They believe more could have been done to save his life.
The pain of his death is still strong.
“Everytime they remember his name, they just cry,” said his cousin Mohammed al-Azzani.
He told KPIX 5 that al-Labani left for Yemen about 2 months ago to see his 2 1/2-year old daughter and wife, who is pregnant. He wanted to bring them back to Oakland, where he owns a gas station.
But chaos caused by terrorist activities and civil unrest in Yemen made it impossible to leave.
“He was pretty worried. He was pretty worried for the past 3 weeks,” said his cousin.
Al-Labini died Tuesday when he and his 14-year old nephew were hit by mortars in a rebel attack.
Family and friends say this could’ve been prevented. The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Yemen on Friday, but so far, there are no plans to help U.S. citizens safely escape.
“I talk to other families here. They have some American relatives back in Yemen, and they don’t know what to do,” said al-Lazzani.
Loved ones gathered on Saturday, along with the Bay Area Council on American-Islamic Relations are hoping the news of al-Labini’s death will cause the State Department to take action. They hope they will order government-led evacuations of US citizens in Yemen as soon as possible.
There is concern for another Bay Area man is trapped in Yemen.
Mokhtar Alkhanshali of San Francisco said he was stopped by an armed militia group in the port city of Aden. He was there hoping to board a ship he heard was taking U.S. citizens. The 26-year-old went to Yemen to work with coffee farmers on improving production and trade skills.
No word as to whether Alkhanshali made it out.