Worshippers nearly burned alive, culprit caught [Archives:2007/1040/Front Page]

April 9 2007

By: Saddam Al-Ashmori
For The Yemen Times

Due to personal problems with his father, Hamid Al-Showmi cracked and decided to burn his father alive, along with more than 40 worshipers during a Friday prayer service last week. He was caught, victims are being treated and order has been reinstated in the area.

AMRAN, April 7 ) Arson injured 33 people, including four children under age 14, who were praying at Beit Al-Amari Mosque in Al-Sawdah district in Amran governorate, located some 60 km. from the capital of Sana'a. A man petrol-bombed the mosque while worshipers were performing Al-Jum'ah weekly prayer last Friday.

Eyewitnesses said someone entered the mosque while worshippers were in prayer, sprayed fuel on them and the walls, then set fire and locked them inside. Local security announced its capture of the culprit, Hamid Al-Showmi, who currently is being interrogated, the district's director conveyed.

The fire burned 11 worshippers severely, necessitating their transport to Al-Jumhury Hospital in Sana'a, which has Yemen's only specialized burn unit. Another 22 were taken to local hospitals in Amran, some with first- and second-degree burns and some suffering from asphyxiation, Dr. Khalid Al-Kurbati, director of Amran Public Hospital, told a Yemen Times reporter at the scene.

Amran Governor Taha Hajer expressed his concern about the incident, noting that the trapped men's rush to escape the fire caused further harm. Those nearer the windows managed to escape without much harm, jumping through the windows. The fire started at the back of the mosque and in a flash, the whole place was in flames. Men began breaking the windows and shouting for those in the neighboring houses to unlock the mosque and free them.

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Al-Showmi, a young man around 25 years old, had suffered stress-related disorder for the past four months. Having been treated at the local hospital, he reportedly had improved and was brought home. His mental illness was caused by personal conflict with his father, who was praying with other worshippers at the mosque. Al-Showmi's brother said Hamid was angry with his father and hence, tried to burn him alive at the Friday prayer service.

Abdulkarim Rasa', who maintained his post as Health Minister in the new Cabinet, visited the patients in Amran to check on them and ensure their adequate treatment. Many patients conveyed their satisfaction regarding the state medical care and felt sorry for the culprit because of his mental disorder. However, others weren't so forgiving and believe the state should take standard action in such criminal incidents. In fact, some patients even accused Al-Showmi of being a follower of the Houthi rebellion in Sa'ada.

Although speculated by some media, local security confirmed that there's no relation and the Sa'ada conflicts north of Amran have nothing to do with religious sects in the area.

This incident is the third of its kind in Amran, as a similar one occurred in 2001 when an assailant randomly fired on a group of worshippers in a Yanour area mosque while they were performing asha'a prayer, killing three and injuring others.

Another incident occurred in 2003 when an unidentified individual threw a bomb at worshippers in a mosque in Houth district's Al-Khamri area, killing one worshipper and injuring two others.