US embassy officers shot and killed two armed Yemeni civilians who tried to kidnap them in the capital Sanaa last month, a State Department official has said.

Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the department, said in a statement to the AFP news agency on Friday: "We can confirm that, last month, two US Embassy officers in Yemen fired their weapons after being confronted by armed individuals in an attempted kidnapping at a small commercial business in Sanaa. 

"Two of the armed individuals were killed. The embassy officers are no longer in Yemen." Harf gave no further details.

However, the New York Times reported that a lieutenant colonel with US Joint Special Operations Command and a CIA officer were involved in the shooting, which took place on April 24. 

A spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington DC, Mohammed Albasha, told the newspaper he was aware of the shooting but had no information about any American role in the matter or his government’s response to that role.

News of the failed abduction came on the same day as a fatal gunfight near the presidential palace and intelligence building in the capital.

At least seven people died after gunmen opened fire at two checkpoints. Al-Qaeda fighters also ambushed the Yemeni defence minister's motorcade on Friday, killing at least three and wounding two others, according to security and military officials.

Sanaa has been on alert for days.

Earlier this week, the US embassy in Sanaa closed temporarily because of attacks on foreigners and gunmen opened fire on three French security guards working with the European Union mission in the Yemeni capital, killing one and wounding another.

Source: Agencies