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16 killed as gunmen storm Catholic retirement home in Yemen

Published 04/03/2016

The Embassy of the Republic of Yemen, in Cromwell Road west London.
The Embassy of the Republic of Yemen, in Cromwell Road west London.

Unidentified gunmen have stormed a retirement home run by Catholic nuns in the Yemeni city of Aden, killing 16 people including four Indian nuns, security officials and witnesses said.

Two gunmen secured the outside of the home while another four entered the building, witnesses said. The gunmen moved from room to room, handcuffing the victims before shooting them in the head.

One nun who was rescued by locals said she hid inside a fridge in a store room after hearing a Yemeni guard shouting "run, run".

Witness 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 six Ethiopians, 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. His family later handed her over to southern fighters in charge of security in the Sheikh Osman district of Aden.

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.

Aden descended into lawlessness after a Saudi-led coalition recaptured the city from Shiite Houthi rebels last summer.

Yemen's civil war has split the country in two. The northern region, where Shiite rebels are in control, has been struck by an extensive air campaign by a Saudi-led coalition. The southern region, which is controlled by the internationally recognised government backed by Saudi Arabia, is suffering from a power and security vacuum.

Islamic State and al Qaida affiliates have exploited the lawlessness and created safe havens in the south.

Al Qaida controls several southern cities and IS has claimed a wave of attacks in Aden, including a suicide bombing that killed the city's governor and several assassination attempts on senior officials.

Aden's churches have also come under attack. In the summer, a Catholic church in the district of Crater was torched and sabotaged by Islamic extremists.

Yemen's war has killed at least 6,200 civilians and injured tens of thousands of Yemenis, and 2.4 million people have been displaced.

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