Yemeni Gets Death Sentence for Killing U.S. Missionaries

Thursday, May 2, 2002

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy News
May 12, 2002

Baltimore, Md (Worthy News) -- A Yemeni court sentenced a man to death on Saturday for the murder of three U.S. missionaries last year because he wanted to get closer to God. Abed Abdel Razzak Kamel testified in court that he killed the Americans to defend Islam because he believed they were sterilizing Muslim women and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

Last year on December 30th, Kamel smuggled a rifle into the Baptist-run hospital located in Jibla, Yemen. He then murdered American missionaries Martha Myers, Bill Koehn, and Kathy Gariety while seriously injuring another.

During the trial, Kamel was quoted as saying, "I acted out of a religious duty...and in revenge from those who converted Muslims from their religion and made them unbelievers."

"They were also committing another corruption," he said, claiming he had learned that women were visiting the hospital to get sterilized.

"This is a violation of Islam," he told the court.

Kamel condemned the ruling as a violation of Islamic sharia law. His lawyer is planning to appeal the sentence, which is usually enforced by firing squad.

Kamel was closely connected to the al Qaeda network. Audiotapes with the voice of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were seized by authorities at Kamel's house. Also, a state-run newspaper reported in January that Kamel admitted to meeting members of the al Qaeda network, including a suicide bomber who attacked the warship USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000.

Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, is a rugged desert country that lies along Saudi Arabia's southern border.

For 35 years, Southern Baptists have treated some 40,000 patients a year at the 45-bed hospital in Jibla, a small town in southern Yemen located 125 miles south of Sanaa, the nation's capital.

Ironically, the hospital, run by the International Mission Board, was scheduled to temporarily suspend operations on Dec. 30, the day of the attacks, and turn administration of the hospital over to a nonreligious Yemeni charity.

But since the attacks, miracles continue to happen in Jibla.

Martha Myers, 57, a physician from Alabama; William Koehn, 60, an administrator from Texas; and Kathleen Gariety, 53, a purchasing agent from Wisconsin were all buried in Yemen. The missionaries decided long ago to be buried in Yemen, and the murders have sparked a spiritual awakening in the region.

During the missionaries’ funeral, several hundred Yemenis gathered at the hospital to pay their respects. Others lined the street for a half mile outside the hospital gates. Mourners sang "He Is Lord" in Arabic and recited the Lord's Prayer.

People who have seen the witness of the three murdered workers are giving serious consideration to the good news, said Lee Hixon, voicing trust that God will be glorified through his colleagues' deaths.

Hixon continued, "For the last 35 years there's been a lot of plowing of hard, almost punished earth, but, yes, there's a harvest here. God is working in people's hearts."

In the aftermath of the murders, the Yemeni government has stepped in and pledged to keep the hospital open. Now the hospital has reopened with an agreement between the IMB and the Yemeni government. According to Elias Moussa, administrative associate for International Mission Board work in northern Africa and the Middle East, "The agreement with the Yemeni government provides for Southern Baptist medical workers to serve alongside Yemenis and other international workers." Moussa continued, "We believe this agreement will carry the hospital to a new level of cooperation between the IMB, the Yemeni people, and other Christian organizations with a heart for the people of Yemen."

The murders of the three workers enlarged the reservoir of goodwill Yemenis feel toward the hospital, Hixon said, as evidenced by the effort to find a new name for the medical center.

"On Dec. 16, as we were getting ready for the transition, Bill Koehn painted out the word 'Baptist' on the hospital sign," Hixon said. "The government's temporary documents for the hospital say 'Jibla Hospital.'

"But the newspapers in Yemen are calling it the 'Hospital of Peace.'"

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