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U.S. Envoy Killed in Jordan, Terrorist Suspected in Attack

By Karl Vick
THE WASHINGTON POST -- AMMAN, Jordan

A veteran U.S. diplomat was killed Monday morning in the driveway of his Amman home as he walked from the front door to a carport, shot at least seven times by a masked gunman who fled on foot, according to Jordanian officials.

The victim was identified as Laurence M. “Larry” Foley, 60, executive officer of the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Jordan. No group immediately asserted responsibility for his killing, but a Jordanian government minister said Monday night it is being investigated as a terrorist attack.

The shooting followed no specific threat against the large U.S. Embassy in Amman, the Jordanian capital, authorities said. But the slaying fit a pattern of attacks directed against undefended Western targets in recent weeks that have been blamed on extremists acting with or in sympathy with the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden.

“We see no evidence that it is attempted robbery or anything else, so we are looking more at the political motive,” said Mohammed Adwan, Jordan’s minister of state for political affairs.

Jordan, a strong U.S. ally, has about 5 million inhabitants, at least half of whom are Palestinians who have become increasingly upset in the past two years over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In addition, Jordan is home to exiles from neighboring Iraq, including opponents of President Saddam Hussein.

The killing stunned employees at the embassy. Sunday, Foley had received an award for superior service at the fortified compound.

Ambassador Edward Gnehm, who struggled for composure at an afternoon news conference, described Foley’s career as one of altruism, from his service as a Peace Corps volunteer in India in the mid-1960s to his office job supervising USAID programs in Jordan, where the agency spends $150 million a year. As supervising executive officer, Foley monitored efforts to bring micro-financing and clean water to the country’s poor.

The night before he died, Foley, a Boston native with three children, told his wife, Virginia, “I’m where I want to be, doing what I want to do,” the ambassador said.

“Larry strove to make the world a better place than he found it,” said Andrew Natsios, administrator of USAID in Washington. “No one in USAID embodied the spirit of compassion that underpins our efforts more than Larry Foley. He leaves behind devoted friends and colleagues where he served.” In addition to Amman, Foley served in La Paz, Bolivia; Lima, Peru; and Harare, Zimbabwe.

Adwan said Virginia Foley found her husband, shot in the face and body, at about 7:20 a.m. beside the burgundy Mercedes sedan he routinely drove to work.

Foley and his wife rented the bottom floor of a two-story stone house on Al-Mawla Mohammed Street, half a block from a busy thoroughfare. Neighbors said they heard no shots and noticed nothing unusual until police cars began arriving.

Officials said the assailant appeared to know Foley’s routine, and might have escaped with the assistance of others. Foley’s wife told officials she saw him flee on foot.

“It’s very obvious they knew exactly when he’s going to go to his car,” said a Jordanian official who asked not to be identified. “I’m sure they’ve been watching for quite some time.”