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4 Nuns Among 16 Killed in Yemen Retirement Home

A pro-government militant checks a room floor stained with blood at an old people's home after it was attacked by gunmen in the Yemeni port of Aden
Pro-government militant checks a room floor stained with blood at 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 on Friday stormed a retirement home run by a charity established by Mother Teresa, killing 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, officials and witnesses said.

The killing spree began with two gunmen who first surrounded the home for the elderly in Aden. Meanwhile, four gunmen reportedly entered the home housing about 80 elderly people in Aden on Friday, on the pretext that they wanted to visit their mothers at the facility.

The gunmen moved from room to room, handcuffing the victims before shooting them in the head. A nun who survived and was rescued by local residents said she hid inside a fridge in a storeroom after hearing a Yemeni guard shouting “run, run”.

Khaled Haidar told The Associated Press that 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 that his family was the first to arrive at the house and that he spoke to the surviving nun, who was crying and shaking. Haidar said that his family later handed her over to a group of southern fighters in charge of security in the local Aden district of Sheikh Osman.

Sunita Kumar, a spokeswoman for Missionaries of Charity, which was established by Mother Teresa in 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,” she said, adding that two of the nuns were from Rwanda, one was from India and one from Kenya.

Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s external affairs ministry, said the attackers had 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 Médecins Sans Frontières. An official with MSF confirmed that 15 bodies arrived at the hospital. Haider said his family took his brother’s body for burial.

Missionaries of Charity nuns previously came under attack in Yemen in 1998, when gunmen killed three nuns 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 Shia rebels are in control, has been struck by an extensive air campaign by the 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.