Killing of British tourists in Yemen

Killing of British tourists in Yemen

On December 28, 1998, 16 tourists (12 Britons, two Americans, and two Australians) were kidnapped in Abyan Governorate, Yemen.[1] They had been traveling in a convoy of five vehicles when they were attacked; a British tourist and a Yemeni guide escaped while the kidnappers took the hostages to al-Wadi'a,[1] 250 miles south of Sana'a.[2]

The next day, 200 Yemeni troops surrounded the kidnappers and the hostages. Yemeni troops then stormed the kidnappers' hideout, and in the resulting gunbattle four hostages were killed and two were injured. Two kidnappers were killed and four arrested.[2] The dead hostages were Britons Margaret Whitehouse, Ruth Williamson, and Peter Rowe, and Australian Andrew Thirsk.[3]

Two kidnappers were also killed in the gunbattle, and four arrested. The men belonged to the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army.[4]


Kidnappers' trial

On May 5, 1999, the four Islamic kidnappers faced sentencing in the killings. Abu Hassan (real name: Zein Al-Abidine al-Mihdar), the group's leader, and two accomplices, Abudullah Saleh al-Junaidy and Saleh Abu Huraira, were convicted of kidnapping and murder and sentenced to death. A fourth gang member, Ahmed Mohammed Atif, was sentenced to 20 years. His brother, Saad, was found not guilty.

Opposition to death sentence

Laurence Whitehouse, whose wife Margaret was shot in the head while trying to help another hostage, said she would not have wanted their execution.

"Margaret and I were both opposed to death penalties. We think it is immoral. No one has the right to take anyone else's lives. But I do hope that appropriate justice is given to the people involved in taking us hostage and killing four innocent tourists."

Another survivor, Susan Mattocks, a teacher of religion from Ramsgate, also opposed execution.

"Provided there has been a fair trial, and all the evidence has been aired openly, I think justice should be done, but in terms of prison sentences, not the death penalty."

Abu Hamza, the London-based cleric accused of sending Britons to train with the Islamic Army of Aden, said the sentences would provoke retaliation.

"I believe it will ignite and spark something which the Yemen government can't afford. The sentence will make the Islamic Army of Aden pull together and restructure. The sentence is totally unjust. Islamic law says that no Muslim should be killed for the blood of a non-Muslim."


Zein al-Mihdar was executed on October 18, 1999.[5] The death sentences of al-Junaidy and Huraira had been commuted earlier in the year.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.