German hostages in Yemen located

A German couple and their three children have been located, but are still being held hostage, according a German official in Yemen. But who's holding them hostage remains a mystery.

Nasser Nasser/AP
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (l.) is accompanied by Yemen Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi as he leaves a meeting with Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in San'a, Yemen on Monday.

Yemeni authorities have located a German couple and their three children who have been held hostage in Yemen by unidentified kidnappers since June, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Monday.

"I have learnt from my conversation with the president that two hours ago the location of the hostages has become known," Westerwelle told reporters in German after talks with President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.

Westerwelle said the Yemeni authorities were working for the release of the hostages, who were among a group of nine foreigners kidnapped in the northern region of Saada.

Three women from the group — two Germans and a South Korean — were later found dead. The other missing hostage is a Briton.
Westerwelle did not say where the family was being held or who had kidnapped them.

Germany’s mass-selling Bild newspaper cited an unnamed government official on Dec. 23 as saying the German government had received a video which showed the three children, aged between one and five years, alive but looking exhausted.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, which occurred in an area where Shi’ite "Houthi" rebels are fighting government troops. The rebels have denied they were responsible.

Al Qaeda militants and disaffected tribesmen are also among possible suspects in an incident until now shrouded in mystery.
"It’s all extraordinarily strange," a Western diplomat in Sanaa said a few weeks after the kidnapping. "There is no precedent for this kind of disappearance. There has been no communication (from the kidnappers), nothing at all."

Kidnapping is common in Yemen, but most foreigners abducted by tribal groups to press the government to meet local demands have been freed unharmed. However, gunmen killed two Belgian women in 2008 in an ambush authorities blamed on Al Qaeda.

"There are countless versions of who the kidnappers might be, ranging from Al Qaeda to the Houthis, criminals, smugglers, or tribal conflict which went wrong," the diplomat said.

Apart from the revolt in the north, Yemen is struggling with a secessionist movement in the south and Islamist militancy that was highlighted when al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing said it was behind a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Dec. 25.

]Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has offered a reward of $275,000 for information leading to the capture of the kidnappers of the nine foreigners.
The United States, concerned about the impact of instability and al Qaeda activity in Yemen on a region that includes oil superpower Saudi Arabia and one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, is increasing economic and security aid to Sanaa.

But Washington does not plan to send US troops to Yemen, President Barack Obama said in remarks published on Sunday.
(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam, Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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