11th March, 2016

Pope Francis has condemned the murder of four nuns and twelve other people at a home for the elderly in the wartorn Aden, Yemen.

The leader of more than billion Catholics said he was also “shocked and profoundly saddened” about the death of the four women, who worked for the Catholic Missionaries of Charity congregation, founded by late missionary Mother Teresa.

Gunmen entered the building on 4th March and went room-to-room, handcuffing victims before shooting them in the head, Catholic sources said.

One nun who survived and was rescued by locals reportedly said that she hid inside a fridge in a store room.

The gunmen, who first told the guard they were on a visit to their mother, stormed into the home with rifles and opened fire, Vatican sources said. As well as the nuns, the dead reportedly included two Yemeni women working at the facility, eight elderly residents and a guard.

The motive of the attackers, who later fled, was not immediately known. The bodies of those killed have been transferred to a clinic supported by medical group Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, medical sources said.

There are around 80 residents living at the home run by Missionaries of Charity. The nuns also came under attack in Yemen in 1998 when gunmen killed three of them in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, Vatican Radio reported.

The nuns who were killed, "will be remembered as martyrs", local media quoted Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege in Rwanda as saying.

Two of the deceased nuns were from Rwanda, including Sr Marguerite Mukashema and Sr Reginette. The two other nuns came from India and Kenya.

“We were informed of their deaths by the Apostolic Nuncio. We deeply regret their deaths but stay proud for their sacrifice that resulted in deaths. We consider them martyrs and they are,” Bishop Mbonyintegehe told The New Times of Rwanda paper.

The incident has underscored wider instability in Yemen where the government has struggled to impose its authority, since its forces, backed by Gulf Arab troops, expelled Iran-allied Houthi fighters who still control the country's capital, Sana'a.

UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville has told media that the fighting is taking a "terrible toll" on Yemeni civilians. As of early January, he reported more than 8,100 casualties, including about 2,800 deaths.

Once a cosmopolitan city home to thriving Hindu and Christian communities, Aden has gone from one of the world's busiest ports as a key hub of the British empire to a largely lawless backwater, according to Christian observers.

Unknown assailants have previously vandalised a Christian cemetery, torched a church and last year blew up an abandoned Catholic church in the area.

- BosNewsLife

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