Yemen gang leader boasts of `abducting the infidels'

THE LEADER of the militant Islamist kidnappers who seized 16 Western tourists in Yemen last month admitted in court yesterday kidnapping them and using them as human shields. He boasted that he "abducted the infidels because their governments attacked Muslims indiscriminately".

Ruth Williamson, 34, Margaret Whitehouse, 52, Peter Rowe, 60 from Britain, and Australian Andrew Thirsk, 35, were killed in a botched rescue attempt on 29 December.

Zein al-Abidine al-Mihdar - also known as Abu Hassan - the leader of the group, and the brothers Ahmed Mohammed Atif and Saad Mohammed Atif were charged with kidnapping when they were taken to a heavily guarded Yemeni court.

Far from denying the charge of kidnap, which carries the death penalty in Yemen, Mr Al-Mihdar shouted defiantly that his group had done everything in the name of God and that he had no regrets.

The Yemeni authorities were clearly nervous that some of the thousands of well-armed supporters that Mr Al-Mihdar claims to have would choose this moment to spring him from captivity.

The tiny Yemeni coastal town of Zinjibar had never seen such a display of security. In the bustling market place, where camels ambled past veiled women who sat around in the heat, uniformed police were spaced at 50-yard intervals.

Outside the courthouse, soldiers manned enormous Russian machine-guns on the backs of pick-up trucks. When the closed white van drew up with the three defendants inside, there was chaos as police tried to prevent photographs being taken. The men emerged, blinking in the harsh sunlight, before being jostled into the courtroom in handcuffs.

After brief formalities, the men were read their charges, which including executing a campaign of bombing, kidnapping and killing in southern Yemen.

No mention was made of the five Britons detained in Aden, whom the Yemeni government has been claiming are linked to the kidnappers. Yemen's ambassador has made clear that the five have not yet been charged, the Foreign Office said last night.

Mr Al-Mihdar then delivered a calm and terrifying diatribe in Arabic against the West, Christianity and rulers such as President Bill Clinton. He said he and his followers were trying to breach the blockade against Muslims by Britain, America, France and their allies. "Are we going to see the cross raised in this region," he asked the court rhetorically, "or the [Muslim] crescent? We are going to break the cross in this country and the same blood that was spilt in Afghanistan will be spilt against the Crusaders."

Smiling frequently as if the trial was all a game, Mr Al-Mihdar gave his blow-by-blow version of the shoot-out in which four of his hostages died and two were injured. He denied killing any himself, but freely admitted using them as human shields against the advancing government troops. "God sent them to us, so we took them," he said. "We kidnapped them to fight their countries because they don't believe in God or our Prophet."

Mr Al-Mihdar is clearly aware he has little chance of escaping execution and has even refused a defence lawyer. In the half-hour recess, he chatted amicably to journalists and even his government captors. We asked him if he knew the five Britons detained in Aden on suspicion of terrorism. He replied: "No." He also denied knowing the British radical Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza Al-Misri, who said this week that the kidnappers had called him last month.

Before the court adjourned until after the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday next week, the kidnappers' leader issued a call to his followers. "For those who are still at large," he said, "I hope they will continue the jihad against the Crusaders. May God strike you all."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor