Tue, Jun 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Official says hostages found murdered in Yemen

GRIM DISCOVERY A security analyst said that it was possible al-Qaeda was behind the deaths and that it was rare for kidnappers in Yemen to kill hostages

AFP AND REUTERS , SANAA

Seven out of nine foreign hostages, including a child, were found murdered in northern Yemen yesterday, a security official said.

“We have found the corpses of seven people who were kidnapped,” the official said. “They were killed.”

Two of the three children captured with the group were reportedly found alive.

The bodies were found by the son of a tribal leader in Noshour, east of the volatile Saada mountainous area of northern Yemen where the nine were abducted, the official said.

The authorities had accused Shiite Zaidi rebels in Saada of seizing seven Germans, a British engineer and a South Korean woman teacher. The rebels denied the charge.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping — the latest in a string of abductions of foreigners in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Dubai-based security analyst Fares bin Houzam said it was possible al-Qaeda was behind the deaths.

“It’s very rare for kidnappers in Yemen to kill, we have to wait to know what happened. But whoever is behind this, this is a fatal blow to security in Yemen,” he said.

In Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could not confirm the report of deaths of hostages.

“We know of this information. We are pressing ahead for examination of this information. For the moment, I cannot give any confirmation,” she said.

South Korea’s foreign ministry also said it had no information and was checking the report.

Seoul had confirmed that a South Korean identified only by her family name Eom had been missing in Yemen since Thursday evening when she joined other members of a relief group for a walk.

Local sources said the group was a Christian Baptist organization.

A Yemeni official said on Sunday that the group was taken hostage by members of the Huthi Zaidi rebel group, which has been fighting the government since 2004.

But a rebel spokesman dismissed the accusation as “baseless,” and said the kidnapping took place in an area controlled by security forces in the town of Saada in the center of rugged mountain range.

Gunmen took hostage 28 foreign medical staff members from a hospital in Amran, north of Sanaa on Thursday and released them on Friday following tribal mediation, media reports said.

Huthi rebels were also blamed for that kidnapping.

“These staged kidnappings that we hear about these days are mere farces that would not fool anyone,” said a statement issued by the Huthi media office.

Foreigners are often kidnapped in Yemen by tribesmen to use as bargaining chips with the government over local disputes.

All have previously been freed unharmed, except for three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants in December 1998 who were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers’ hideout.

In April, a Dutch couple were held for two weeks by tribesmen to pressure the government to pay compensation for an incident involving a tribal chief and security forces.

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