Irish Priest, Dutch Family of Three Killed in Attack
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) _ Suspected guerrillas ambushed and killed an Irish priest, a Dutch couple and their 3-year-old daughter as the foreigners fled an eastern town reportedly under rebel attack, colleagues said Monday.
Four nuns from the United States, Ireland and Nigeria escaped by speeding their vehicle through a hail of gunshots, a survivor said. A doctor from New Zealand also got away.
The foreigners were fleeing Panguma, about 140 miles east of Freetown, when they came under fire from armed men Saturday, said Augustine Brima, a worker at the Catholic Pastoral Center in nearby Kenema.
The nuns, priest and physicians were working at a Catholic missionary hospital in Panguma, which was reportedly attacked by rebels who have staged new offensives in recent days.
Rebels were suspected of carrying out the attack on the fleeing foreigners, but that could not be confirmed. The rebellion in the nation’s eastern region is complicated by violence by renegade army units and gangs of bandits. Both rebels and regular soldiers also have been accused of numerous atrocities.
The Holy Ghost Fathers in Dublin identified the priest as Felim McAllister, 52, who had been in Sierra Leone since 1968.
They identified the Dutch victims as physician Elco Krijn, his wife, Karim, and their daughter, Zita. However, the Catholic aid agency Memisa, for which they worked, identified them as Dr. Eelco Krijn 38, his wife, Karin, 36, and daughter Zita, 3.
The Holy Ghost Fathers said those who escaped were Dr. Ann Greening of New Zealand, who was injured, and the nuns were Madeleine Naughton of Ireland, Justina Arima of Nigeria and Mary Ann Tippet and Arthur Gordon of the United States. No hometowns were available.
Sister Naughton was driving the car following McAllister’s. She told the Dublin Evening Press and the Evening Herald that she saw McAllister die in a barrage of gunfire, and sped on as her vehicle was riddled with bullets.
Greening was riding in a car with Krijn and fled into a swamp, then was captured when the attackers returned. Government soldiers rescued her a short while later, said a priest in Freetown who identified himself only as Father Healy.
Healy said the gunmen who opened fire on the vehicles were believed to be rebels who have been fighting the government in the region for three years.