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Authorities Investigate Shooting of Americans in Yemen - 2002-12-31

Authorities in Yemen say they are trying to determine whether the man responsible for the fatal shooting Monday of three American missionaries acted alone or is linked to a larger terrorist network. Yemeni police are trying to determine whether there is any link between extremist groups and Abed Abdel Razzak, 30, the man accused of killing the missionaries.

The shootings occurred in the town of Jibla, about 200 kilometers south of Sana'a, Yemen's capital. Police say the gunman entered a hospital complex run by an American Christian group, hiding a semiautomatic rifle under his jacket.

The Reuters news agency reports many residents of Jibla are distraught over the deaths. The three missionaries killed had worked in Yemen for many years.

The U.S. embassy in Sana'a says it has organized a voluntary evacuation for Americans from Jibla, but says some Americans wish to remain there to carry on their work. The embassy also says it has helped to step up security at the hospital by sending a metal detector and handheld body scanners.

An Australian doctor working at the hospital says he believes the assailant specifically targeted the Americans. The shooting marks the most serious anti-American operation in Yemen since the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole two years ago in the southern port of Aden, which left 17 sailors dead.

The Arabic daily al-Hayat reports an extremist group threatened last week over the internet to kill Americans and Yemenis. The group, called "The Militia of Abu Ali al-Harethi," says it wants to avenge the deaths of six al-Qaida members, including the group's top lieutenant in Yemen, who were killed in November when a car they were in was struck by a drone missile operated by the CIA.