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U.S. aid workers killed in Yemen

Report says attack appeared 'pre-planned'

The Baptist hospital in Jibla where three the U.S. aid workers were killed early Monday morning.
The Baptist hospital in Jibla where three the U.S. aid workers were killed early Monday morning.

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Three American health care missionaries are shot to death at a clinic in southern Yemen. CNN's Brian Cabell reports (December 30)
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SANAA, Yemen (CNN) -- Authorities were questioning a suspected Islamic extremist who allegedly shot dead three U.S. humanitarian workers and wounded a fourth at a missionary hospital early Monday morning in southern Yemen, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen told CNN.

Shortly after the attacks, the suspect, Abid Abdulrazzaq al-Kamil, 30, told authorities he did it "to get closer to God," but the motive for the shootings remained unclear, said Faris al-Sanabani, a Yemeni journalist. Al-Sanabani said officials believe the man has ties to Muslim extremists.

Authorities weren't sure whether the gunman acted alone and were probing al-Kamil's background, al-Sanabani said.

Yemeni sources said the gunman "was unhappy with the activities of medical personnel" at the hospital, according to U.S. Ambassador Edmund J. Hull.

The gunman reportedly sneaked into the hospital by posing as a father, said Walid Al-Saqqaf, editor in chief of the Yemen Times.

"One of the eyewitnesses there said that he came in the office as if he had a child beneath his jacket [but] it turned out to be ... a semi-automatic rifle that he used against them," Al-Saqqaf said.

Killed were William Koehn, 60, hospital administrator, Kathleen Gariety, 53, hospital business manager, and Dr. Martha Myers, 57, an obstetrician, said Wendy Norvelle of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, which runs the hospital in Jibla, about 120 miles south of the capital Sanaa.

Their bodies were expected to be taken back to the United States Tuesday.

Don Caswell, 49, a pharmacist, was wounded. He was taken into surgery shortly after the attack and is expected to recover from his wounds, Norvelle said. (More on victims)

Baptist official: Aid workers 'aware of risk'

The gunman apparently tracked down one of the victims in a separate room inside the hospital, Al-Saqqaf said.

Left to right: Dr. Martha Myers, Kathy Gariety, William Koehn.
Left to right: Dr. Martha Myers, Kathy Gariety, William Koehn.

"It seemed somewhat a pre-planned attack," he said. "Perhaps the person who knew that [the hospital staff] would be coming at that particular time ... wanted to do as much damage and harm as possible."

Norvelle said the three who were slain had served at the hospital for a number of years and that Koehn was planning to retire next year.

"We've been operating a hospital for 35 years, and we've treated more than 40,000 patients a year ... and we continue to have plans to have personnel here," Norvelle said.

"Our personnel as Americans and Christians are well aware of the risk of living and serving in a place like Yemen," said International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin.

"We would not choose to end our ministry and service because of risk and danger to our personnel," he said. "If we would, we would probably be ending our [work] in many of the countries throughout the world."

The IMB works in 184 countries, Rankin said, speaking from the board's home office in Richmond, Virginia.

According to the board's Web site, the IMB is "an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical denomination, claiming more than 40,000 churches with nearly 16 million members."

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa issued a statement condemning the shooting and urging Yemen's government to bring those responsible for the attack to justice.

"We call upon the Yemeni government to bring those responsible to justice," the statement said.

"We are advising American citizens in Yemen to enhance their personal security and are requesting additional protection for American citizens in Yemen."

About 30,000 Americans live in Yemen, most of them Yemeni-Americans, said U.S. Embassy spokesman John Balian.

Security in Yemen has been a U.S. priority since the October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden that killed 17 sailors. The attack was blamed on terrorist group al Qaeda, which was responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is a hotbed for extremist Islamic militant groups that find refuge in the country's mountainous, tribal strongholds.

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