U.S. investigators have joined authorities in Yemen searching for those responsible for the murders of three American missionaries at a Baptist hospital in the southern Yemeni town of Jibla.
On December 29th, a gunman slipped past security guards at Jibla Hospital and entered a room where the director, William Koehn, was conducting a meeting. The gunman shot and killed Mr. Koehn, as well as Dr. Martha Myers and hospital purchasing agent Kathleen Gariety. Then he burst into the hospital pharmacy and seriously wounded pharmacist Donald Caswell.
Thirty-year-old Abed Abdul Razak Kamel [ah-bed ab-dool raz-ak kahm-el] is in custody for the shootings. The search for possible accomplices is underway.
Yemen has been home to many members and sympathizers of al-Qaida, the group responsible for the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. Yemen was also the site of the al-Qaida attack on the U.S.S. Cole on October 12th, 2000. A small boat carrying explosives rammed the destroyer, killing seventeen American sailors and injuring thirty-nine others.
Yemeni authorities say they are continuing to work with the U.S. to root out terrorists. Yemeni law enforcement has been tracking down and arresting al-Qaida operatives. The government has closed extremist Muslim schools and brought hundreds of other schools under its direct control. Foreign students at independent religious schools have been rounded up; many have been deported. And the U.S. has conducted training courses for Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism techniques.
There can be no justification for the despicable attack at Jibla Hospital, an institution providing critical humanitarian services to the Yemeni people. The eighty-bed hospital provides free care for Yemen's poor, and treats more than forty-thousand patients a year. The Americans who were attacked were committed to serving the Yemeni people. As a friend of Ms. Gariety told the Associated Press, "Her love for the people [of Yemen] was greater than her concern for herself."
The government of Yemen, including all major political parties, has publicly rejected this crime, and is calling for swift and sure justice for those responsible.
As for the U.S., President George W. Bush said, "We strongly condemn and deplore the murders of three American citizens who were providing humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Our intention is to bring to justice any and all people who were responsible for these murders."