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White House condemns murders, Falwell blasts national media

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The White House strongly condemned the murders of three Southern Baptist workers and the wounding of another during a Dec. 30 attack on the Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen.

“We strongly condemn and deplore the murder of three American citizens who were providing humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people,” the White House spokesman said. “We are working closely with Yemeni officials to investigate these attacks.”

Hospital administrator William E. Koehn, business manager Kathleen A. Gariety, and physician Martha C. Myers were killed and pharmacist Donald W. Caswell was injured in the early morning attack.

While initial reports from the scene are sketchy, the Americans were involved in a meeting at the beginning of the workday at the hospital. A single gunman burst into the room and opened fire.

Koehn, Gariety and Myers were killed immediately. The gunman then reportedly moved to another room, where he wounded Caswell, who was taken to surgery. He is expected to recover from his injuries.

News reports indicate a 35-year-old man has been taken into custody. The president of Yemen reportedly sent President Bush a note of condolence. The contents of the note were not revealed during a Dec. 30 press gaggle at the president’s Crawford, Texas ranch.

President Bush was informed of the murders during the early morning.

The White House said American officials are working with Yemeni officials to determine if the shootings were the result of a terrorist attack.

“Our intention, I want to make clear, is to bring to justice any and all people who were responsible for these murders,” the spokesman said.

Well-known commentator and pastor Jerry Falwell blasted the national media for ignoring Islamic attacks on Christians. “America in general, and Jews and Christians in particular, have more to fear from radical Islam than from Nazism or Communism in the past,” Falwell told Baptist Press. “Over 2 million Christians have died in the Sudan in recent years at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. The press to their discredit have failed to maximize the international tragedy that is underway.

“If a massacre were being conducted against people of color, God forbid, or groups like gays and lesbians, there would be an understandable outcry that would demand change. It is a tragedy that Christian lives do not seem to have the same value to the national media.”

Falwell condemned the killings and urged Christians to pray for a “hedge of protection around missionaries serving in hostile regions.”

“These deaths are a continuation of the hostility that al Qaeda and other radical groups within Islam are promoting,” Falwell said. “It is unthinkable that people in the name of God and under the pretense of divine mandate would take human lives.”

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  • Todd Starnes