November 21, 2002
Sidon, Lebanon (ICEJ) -- A female American missionary has been shot dead at a Christian heath clinic in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, according to the Reuters news agency.
Bonnie Whiterall, 31, a nurse assistant at the clinic, was killed at 7 am local time on Thursday as she entered the clinic in Sidon, 28 miles south of Beirut.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but aid workers said the evangelical mission that runs the pregnancy clinic had received warnings from anti-American Islamic extremists demanding it close down.
"About three to four months ago the frequency of the warnings increased and the language toughened. They came from Lebanese Sunni Muslim extremists asking them to stop their activities and leave," a worker told Reuters.
It is believed the murder, possibly carried out by a terrorist group linked to Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qada network, is the latest in a growing trend of anti-American sentiment which has risen in the region since the beginning of the Palestinian intifada and President Bush's threatened military action against Iraq.
In October, a senior US diplomat was shot dead in Jordan amid President Bush's perceived bias towards Israel and policy against Iraq. Meanwhile, a string of small-scale bombings have targeted US-linked food outlets over the past six months.
It was the first such killing of a Westerner in Lebanon since 1983, the year when a suicide truck bomb attack on a US barracks in Beirut killed 241 people.
Whiterall had arrived in Lebanon almost two years ago and worked long hours at the clinic twice a week, mainly helping pregnant Lebanese and Palestinian women from the nearby Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.
"She loved her work. She helped pregnant women. She went with some of them to their deliveries to support them and she talked to them and helped them," her Swedish friend, Asa Bjork told Reuters.
The victim's British husband Gary Weatherall, issued a statement through the Christian and Missionary Alliance church, saying, "My wife died because of her love for the church and because she loved helping the people of Sidon and Lebanon."