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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee