Masked militants torch Yemen church

A church in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden was set on fire on 16 September by masked militants on the same day that the country’s Prime Minister Khaled Bahah returned to the city from exile in Saudi Arabia.

According to local residents, the entire contents of the church, located in the city’s central Crater neighbourhood, were burned. The day before the arson attack the church was broken into and vandalised.

The church in Aden was mainly attended by expatriate workers and refugees and was one of the few remaining in the city. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a security official suggested the militants may be Al-Qaeda fighters.

“The government has moved its base from Riyadh to Aden,” a government spokesman told reporters. The Prime Minister and several other ministers from his cabinet arrived in Aden on the same day as the church attack.

Government officials had been exiled to Saudi Arabia for months after Shia Muslim Houthis gained control over vast swathes of the country in March. Saudi-backed pro-government forces retook Aden in July. According to the UN, an estimated 4,500 people have been killed in the fighting since March.

Already the poorest country in the Middle East, 21 million people out of the total population of 26.7 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Less than 0.5 % of Yemen’s population is Christian. Yemeni Christians are converts from Islam, but most of the Christians in the country are expatriate workers or Ethiopian refugees. Prior to 1967, when Aden was a British colony, there were 22 churches in the city.

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