- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

JIBLA, Yemen A Muslim extremist, cradling his hidden gun like a baby under his jacket, slipped into a Southern Baptist hospital in Yemen yesterday and opened fire, killing three American missionaries and seriously wounding a fourth, Yemeni officials said.
A Yemeni man was arrested, and a government official said security forces were searching for a terrorist cell targeting foreigners and prominent locals that Islamic militants deem too secular.
[A Yemeni official said the arrested man, Abed Abdul Razak Kamel, told police that he shot the Americans because they were Christian missionaries and he wanted to "cleanse his religion and get closer to God," Reuters news agency reported.
["The gunman confessed to being a member of the Islamic Jihad group and said he shot the Americans because they were preaching Christianity," the official told Reuters, referring to a local group unrelated to the Palestinian movement also called Islamic Jihad.]
Americans have been repeatedly warned by the State Department to be cautious in Yemen, a country where central government authority is weak in tribal areas, guns are plentiful and Muslim militants have found refuge. Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, has been a key front in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
The White House condemned the Jibla attack but said it was too soon to tell whether it was linked to terror groups. U.S. investigators were working closely with the Yemenis "to bring to justice all those who are responsible," spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The gunman entered the complex of Jibla Baptist Hospital, slipping past a security check by hiding his semiautomatic rifle under his jacket to make it resemble a child, officials and the missionary organization said. It's not uncommon in Yemen for children to be carried under loose-fitting clothes.
The attacker entered a room where hospital director William E. Koehn was holding a meeting and opened fire, said the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, based in Richmond, Va.
Mr. Koehn and two others were shot in the head and died instantly, Yemeni officials said. The gunman then went to the hospital's pharmacy and shot and wounded the pharmacist, Donald W. Caswell.
Mr. Koehn, 60, of Arlington, Texas, had planned to retire in October after 28 years of service. The mission board identified the other two killed as purchasing agent Kathleen A. Gariety, 53, of Wauwatosa, Wis., and Dr. Martha C. Myers, 57, of Montgomery, Ala.
Mr. Caswell, 49, of Levelland, Texas, was shot in the abdomen. Hospital officials said he was in critical condition.
The killings are "a crime unacceptable in any religion. This contradicts Islam," said a Jibla woman who gave only her first name, Fatima, and who said she used the hospital. "They cared for us and looked after us. I can't even count the number of children they treated and saved."
After the attack, a Yemeni military jeep with a soldier behind a large machine gun was posted outside the gates of the hospital, a compound of one-story, corrugated tin-roof buildings 125 miles south of San'a, the capital.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh sent a message to President Bush condemning the shootings as "criminal and disgraceful" and pledging to punish the perpetrators, the official news agency, Saba, said. Mr. Saleh's government has cooperated with Washington in the war on terrorism.
In San'a, American Ambassador Edmund J. Hull said U.S. officials did not envision a general evacuation but, "We will assist American citizens in Jibla if they wish to leave."
About 30,000 U.S. citizens, most of Yemeni origin, live in the country, the embassy said. The embassy urged Americans to step up security.
Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the three victims "martyrs" who were "killed in the line of duty."
Speaking from Plano, Texas, Mr. Graham said that aside from providing humanitarian aid, the missionaries were "there because they're Christians and they have no doubt been sharing their faith."
Jerry Rankin, president of the group's mission board, said his organization would continue to operate in Yemen.
He said there had been threats against his group's missionaries, though not specifically against the hospital. The threats are taken seriously, he said. "It goes with being a Christian missionary now, but also with being an American."
It was the second recent attack on American missionaries in the region. On Nov. 21, an American missionary nurse was fatally shot in the Lebanese city of Sidon. Lebanese authorities have yet to determine who was behind that shooting.
Kamel is reported to have said during interrogation that he plotted the shooting in collaboration with Ali al-Jarallah, who was arrested for killing a senior Yemeni leftist politician on Saturday.
Another security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said authorities were searching for five to eight extremists targeting foreigners and Yemeni politicians or other figures who, like the slain politician, do not adhere to Islamic fundamentalism.
The mission board said its 80-bed Jibla hospital treats more than 40,000 patients a year, and its missionaries also teach English and clinical skills at a nearby nursing school.
Impoverished, factionalized and predominantly Muslim, Yemen has for years been a haven for wanted Islamic extremists. Bin Laden enlisted thousands of Yemenis to fight alongside the mujahideen of Afghanistan in their U.S.-backed war against an occupying Soviet army in the 1980s.
Many have since returned to Yemen.
On Oct. 6, an explosives-laden boat rammed a French oil tanker off Yemen's coast, killing a crew member. U.S. intelligence officials suspect militants linked to al Qaeda in the attack.
Two years earlier, a suicide bomber in a small boat attacked the USS Cole in the southern port of Aden, killing 17 sailors in an attack blamed on al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda also carried out the September 11 attacks against the United States.

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