Saturday 18 November 2017

16 killed as gunmen storm retirement home established by Mother Teresa charity in Yemen

People stand outside an old people's home after it was attacked by gunmen in the Yemeni port of Aden March 4, 2016. Reuters/Stringer
People stand outside an old people's home after it was attacked by gunmen in the Yemeni port of Aden March 4, 2016. Reuters/Stringer

Gunmen in southern Yemen have stormed a retirement home run by a charity established by Mother Teresa, killing 16 people, including four Catholic nuns.

Two gunmen secured the home for the elderly in Aden, while four others entered the building on the pretext that they wanted to visit their mothers, according to the charity, Yemeni security officials and witnesses.

The gunmen then moved from room to room, handcuffing the victims before shooting them in the head. A nun who was rescued by locals said she hid inside a fridge in a storeroom after hearing a Yemeni guard shouting "run".

Khaled Haidar said he counted 16 bodies, including that of his brother Radwan. All had been shot in the head and were handcuffed. He said that in addition to the four nuns, one Yemeni cook, and Yemeni guards were among those killed.

He said his family was the first to arrive at the house and he spoke to the surviving nun, who was crying and shaking. Mr Haidar said his family later handed her to a group of southern fighters in charge of security in the Aden district of Sheikh Osman.

Sunita Kumar, a spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity in the Indian city of Kolkata, said the members of the charity were "absolutely stunned" at the killing.

"The Sisters were to come back but they opted to stay on to serve people" in Yemen, she added.

She also said that two of the killed nuns were from Rwanda and the others were from India and Kenya.

Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India's External Affairs Ministry, said the attackers asked the guard to open the gate on the pretext of visiting their mothers at the retirement home.

"On entering inside, (they) immediately shot dead the gatekeeper and started shooting randomly," he said, adding that the assailants escaped soon after the attack.

The bodies were transferred to a police station and then a hospital run by the aid organisation Doctors Without Borders or MSF. An official with MSF confirmed that 15 bodies had arrived at the hospital. Mr Haider said his family took his brother's body for burial.

There were around 80 residents living at the home, which is run by Missionaries of Charity, an organisation established by Mother Teresa. Missionaries of Charity nuns also came under attack in Yemen in 1998 when gunmen killed three in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.

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