Muslim extremist kills three, injures one in attack on Southern Baptist hospital
Yemeni authorities have arrested Abed Abdel Razzak Kamel (also referred to as Ali Abdulrazzak al-Kamel), a self-described Islamic jihadist from the province of Damar, for killing three American missionaries at the Jibla Baptist Hospital (map).
"The gunman confessed to being a member of the Islamic Jihad group and said he shot the Americans because they were preaching Christianity," an unnamed official told Reuters. (The Yemeni Islamic Jihad is unrelated to the Palestinian movement of the same name). Kamel, the official said, told police he attacked the missionaries to "cleanse his religion and get closer to God."
Reports say that Kamel, a student at the radical al-Iman university (where "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh also was indoctrinated in militant Islam), entered the hospital posing either as a patient or as a relative (or possibly both), with a fake bandage on his hand and his Kalashnikov assault rifle wrapped up like a baby. He then entered the hospital's administrative wing, where he interrupted a morning meeting, shooting the hospital director, chief doctor, and a nurse, all in the head. They died immediately.
How pharmacist Donald W. Caswell was shot in the abdomen is a matter of some dispute. Some reports say Kamel found him in another room. Others say he was shot while fleeing the conference room attack. Jacqueline Lawson-Smith, the British charges d'affaires to Yemen, told the BBC (video) that the 49-year-old Levelland, Texas, native was injured while tackling Kamel as the gunman tried to escape.
"We just thank the Lord that he is alive," Caswell's father told the Associated Press. "He's alert and talking and everything's going to be all right, they're thinking."
The three murdered missionaries, all serving under the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, were hospital administrator William E. Koehn of Arlington, Texas, business manager Kathleen A. Gariety of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and nurse Martha C. Myers of Montgomery, Alabama. Koehn, 60, had planned to retire in October 2003, reports Baptist Press.
"We are devastated by this news," said IMB spokesman Larry Cox. "We are moving quickly to minister to family members located in Yemen, as well as in the United States."
Plans to transfer control of the Jibla hospital over to a local charity were controversial in Baptist circles, Associated Baptist Press reported in October. Retired medical missionary John Wikman told the news service that the deal would save the denomination $500,000 a year, but would "in effect turn a high-profile Baptist institution over to Muslims."
In what was apparently early speculation, hospital administrator Julie Toma told CNN that the attack may have been connected with the transfer. "It was a backlash against that," she said. "It was an isolated incident."
Under the new arrangement, which is apparently still pending, Southern Baptist missionaries would provide medical personnel but not administration. With 80 beds, the hospital treats 40,000 patients each year. The services are free to the poor. Baptists also teach English and clinical skills at a nearby nursing school, the Associated Press reports.
"They cared for us and looked after us," a Jibla woman told the AP. "I can't even count the number of children they treated and saved." She called the attack "a crime unacceptable in any religion. This contradicts Islam."
Reuters says the attack "shows President Ali Abdullah Saleh still has a long way to go in stamping out Islamist violence. … Like other countries in the region, Yemen has witnessed a surge of anti-U.S. sentiment in recent months."
It has also seen a surge of violence that has little to do with anti-U.S. sentiment. A senior Yemeni politician was killed Saturday. Kamel reportedly said that he had planned his attack with the leader of that assassination.
Past religious freedom reports from the U.S. State Department said that the hospital experienced "occasional threats and harassment from local extremists who feared that the hospital might be used to spread Christianity."
Missionary released by Ivory Coast rebels
Lutheran missionary William P. Foster is on his way out of rebel controlled territory in western Ivory Coast, rebel commander Felix Doh told the Associated Press today. Foster has been out of contact for more than a week since the town of Toulepleu fell to the rebels.
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