Killing of British tourists in Yemen

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On December 28, 1998, 16 tourists (11 Britons, two Americans, two Australians and one Canadian) were kidnapped in Abyan Governorate, Yemen.[1] They had been travelling 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 in Al Wade'a District. Yemeni troops then stormed the kidnappers' hideout, and in the resulting gunbattle four hostages were killed and two were injured and arrested. Two kidnappers were killed and four arrested.[2] The dead hostages were Britons Margaret Whitehouse, Ruth Williamson, Canadian Peter Rowe, and Australian Andrew Thirsk.[3]

The kidnappers belonged to the Islamist group Aden-Abyan Islamic Army.[4]

Kidnappers' trial[edit]

On May 5, 1999, the four Islamist 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[edit]

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.


  1. ^ a b "Kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen, 1996-2001". Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Kidnap terror ends in death". the Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Yemen victims named". BBC News. 1998-12-29. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  4. ^ John Pike. "Aden-Abyan Islamic Army". Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Tourists' kidnapper executed in Yemen". the Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2014.