Missionaries of Charity attack in Aden

The Missionaries of Charity attack in Aden was a mass murder crime committed by unknown gunmen inside a home for older people in Aden, Yemen on 4 March 2016.[2]

Missionaries of Charity attack in Aden
Part of the Yemeni Civil War (2014–present) and the Aden unrest
Missionaries of Charity attack in Aden (Yemen)
LocationAden, Yemen
Date4 March 2016 (2016-03-04)
PerpetratorsIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant[1](alleged, denied)
No. of participants

16 people were killed, including four Catholic nuns.[3] An Indian priest, Tom Ozhonaniel, was kidnapped.[4]

The identities of the attackers are unknown. Media outlets published a statement attributed to Ansar al-Sharia, one of the active jihadist organizations in the country, denying any relation to the incident.[5][6]

The Times of India posited the attackers belonged to the Yemen-based affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS) group.[1][7][2]


Christian presence in Yemen goes back to the fourth century AD to hold a number of Himyarites believers due to the efforts of Theophilos the Indian. Currently, there are no official statistics on their numbers, but estimated at between 3,000 and 25,000 people,[8] and most of them are refugees or temporary residents.

Freedom of worship, conversion from Islam and establishing facilities dedicated for worship are not recognized in the Constitution or as laws or legal rights.[9] At the same time, Wahabbi activities linked to Al-Islah were being facilitated, financed and encouraged from multiple fronts including the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance,[10] which says that its tasks "to contribute to the development of Islamic awareness and circulation of the publication Education and Islamic morals and consolidation in the life of public and private citizens."[11]

The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, have worked in Aden since 1992, and the order has three other centers in Sana'a, Taiz and Hodeidah. Three Catholic nuns were killed in Hodeidah in 1998, two from India and the third from the Philippines, at the hands of a member of Al-Islah Abdullah al-Nashiri, arguing that they were calling for conversion to Christianity. In 2002, three Americans were killed in Baptists Hospital at the hands of another Al-Islah member named Abed Abdul Razak Kamel.[12] Survivors say that the hospital was "a political football" often raised by Islamists (Al-Islah), who talked about it in mosques and hospital workers describing Hospital workers as "spies". But they emphasized that these opinions are a minority among Yemenis.[13]

In December 2015, a Catholic church in Aden was destroyed.[14] Since the escalation of the Yemeni crisis in March 2015, six priests from John Bosco remained, and twenty workers of charitable missions in the country, described by Pope Francis by the courage to fortitude amid war and conflict. He called the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia to pray for all the oppressed and tortured, expelled from their homes, and killed unjustly.[15] The Missionaries of Charity were not actively engaged in evangelization according to the testimonies of beneficiaries of its services.[13][16]


The attack on the house took place at 12:00pm local time, when two armed men had persuaded the guards to let them through the main gate having claimed they were going to visit their elderly mother. Once they entered, they began to shoot randomly, according to Indian officials at the Foreign Ministry.[17]

Inside the building, nuns were preparing breakfast. Four of the five nuns sensed danger and tried to hide in a convent, where they were shot dead in an open area. All the rooms were stormed and the meeting tent was destroyed, as were statues and crucifixes in the small church. In one picture, two nuns are shown lying on the ground in a dirt yard, after having been shot execution-style. The attackers were dressed in a "semi-blue" uniform.[17] According to the Catholic News Agency, the last prayer said by the nuns before they were killed says:[18]

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward.

Sunita Kumar, a spokesman for the charity's mission, described the killers as "demented", adding "there is no other explanation as to why armed people would enter the premises of the home and shoot down innocent, harmless nurses who had dedicated their lives to serving others."[17] Bishop Michael Lewis of the Anglican Church said the compound contained seventy or eighty elderly people, many destitute.[19] The Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin commented that Pope Francis prayed that this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue.[5]

Pope Francis described the crime as "satanic", stating that the nuns were "martyrs of today", adding that they were killed by both the attackers, and a "globalization of indifference.". His statement was published, including the following quote:[20]

In the name of God, he calls upon all parties in the present conflict to renounce violence, and to renew their commitment to the people of Yemen, particularly those most in need, whom the Sisters and their helpers sought to serve.

The Missionaries of Charity announced it would continue its work in Yemen despite the violence and danger.[21]


Deaths by nationality
Country Number Ref.
  Yemen 7 [22]
  Ethiopia 5 [22]
  Rwanda 2 [22]
  India 1 [22]
  Kenya 1 [22]
Total 16 [22]

An Indian priest, Tom Ozhonaniel, was also kidnapped. Since, he later appeared in several videos chastising the lack of effort to release him and pleading for his life.[1][23][24] In September 2017, he was rescued by Omani authorities, and it was reported he would soon return to his home in Kerala.[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "I'm not of value because I'm Indian: Priest abducted by Islamic State seeks help". M.hindustantimes.com. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Gunmen Kill 16 at Nursing Home in Yemen Started by Mother Teresa". The New York Times. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Here are the faces of the nuns who were martyred in Yemen". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  4. ^ William Watkinson. "Yemen: Gunmen kidnap Indian priest from care home where 16 including 4 nuns were slaughtered". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b Faith Karimi, CNN (6 March 2016). "Al Qaeda denies link to attack that killed nuns in Yemen". CNN. Retrieved 11 April 2016. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ "Missing Indian priest in Yemen abducted by 'terrorists': Sushma Swaraj". Hindustantimes. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Senior Indian nun of Yemen aid home to be evacuated". The Times of India. 7 March 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Yemen". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Yemen : Executive summary" (PDF). State.gov. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  10. ^ Shelagh Weir (2009). A Tribal Order: Politics and Law in the Mountains of Yemen. University of Texas Press. p. 296. ISBN 9780292773974. These activities were encouraged and financed, as elsewhere in Yemen, by the then Wahhabi-controlled Ministry of Religious Guidance (irsha ̄d), by Saudi and Yemeni business figures and by the Yemeni Reform Grouping islah
  11. ^ "وزارة الأوقاف والإرشاد". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  12. ^ Evan Kohlmann (17 January 2003). "National Review Online". National Review. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Nine Bullets That Ended Baptists' Work in Yemen". The New York Times. 16 January 2003. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  14. ^ Saleh al-Batati in Yemen and Asa Fitch in Dubai (6 March 2016). "Gunmen Kill 16 at Yemeni Home for the Elderly". WSJ. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  15. ^ "Catholics in Yemen". America Magazine. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  16. ^ "Three American Missionaries Killed in Yemen Hospital". Fox News. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  17. ^ a b c "Indian nun among 16 killed by gunmen in Yemen; victims handcuffed, shot in the head". The Indian Express. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  18. ^ "There's no question – the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen 'died as martyrs'". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  19. ^ "Prayers offered after killing of nuns in Yemen". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  20. ^ "Pope Francis says nuns killed in Yemen attack are victims of 'the globalization of indifference'". America Magazine. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Missionaries of Charity pledge to continue work in Yemen". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  22. ^ a b c d e f "UPDATED: Four sisters dead in attack on Missionaries of Charity home in Yemen: Catholic News Agency (CNA)". Google.it. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Abducted Indian priest to pope: Being ignored as I am not European". The Times of India. 2016-12-26. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  24. ^ "Fr. Tom kidnapped Indian priest in Yemen pleads for help in video". Vatican Radio (in Latin). 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  25. ^ "Indian priest abducted by ISIS in Yemen rescued: Sushma Swaraj - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-09-13.