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Missionaries of Charity shot dead in Yemen

ADEN (SE): Four sisters from the Missionaries of Charity along with at least 10 people from the staff of a facility for the aged and people with special needs in Aden, Yemen, were killed on March 4, when armed and uniformed men burst into their compound.

There are around 80 people living in the compound altogether.

Fides reported that a driver who worked at the facility and at least two Ethiopian community workers were the first to be shot. The armed men then fired on anyone who stood in their sights, killing nursing and other staff, before firing on the sisters.

The Associated Press reported that in addition, two Yemeni guards died, bringing the total to 16.

The apostolic vicar to Saudi Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder, told AsiaNews that he believes the attack was religiously motivated, as the Yemen has been in the throes of a civil war for over one year.

Bishop Hinder said, “People in uniform stormed the compound where the Missionaries of Charity live. After they killed the security guard and all the employees that stood in their way, they came for the nuns (sisters) and opened fire, killing four. One managed to hide and survive. Now she is in a safe place.”

The victims are Sister Anselm, from India, Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette, from Rwanda, and Sister Judit, from Kenya. The superior of the community was able to find a hiding place.

The armed men abducted a Salesian, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was in the chapel at the time. He had been staying at the compound since his parish of Holy Family in Aden was destroyed and burned by unidentified gunmen in September last year. There has been no news of his whereabouts.

The bishop told AsiaNews, “We knew that the situation was difficult and that the sisters were running a certain risk.” He added that this is not the first time that they had been attacked, but they decided to stay put because that is their way.

But he said that what is clear is that the area is not safe, even at times when there are no particular signs of trouble. He explained that since no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, gathering information is difficult, but the signs are clear that it had something to do with religion.

This is not the first time that Missionaries of Charity have been killed in the Yemen. In 1998, three of them were shot in the city of Al Hudaydah as they were leaving a hospital. The police blamed an unbalanced Saudi person for the murder.

Vatican Radio described Aden as transitioning from a once cosmopolitan city and home to thriving Hindu and Christian communities, to a largely lawless backwater. It was an important port for shipping using the Suez Canal and a regular refuelling stopover for flights between the Asian region and Europe.

 

Yemen’s embattled government is based in Aden, but has struggled to impose its authority. Expelled Iran-allied Houthi forces still control the capital, Sanaa.

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