Nine foreigners kidnapped in Yemen


Sana’a (Yemen) : Seven Germans, a British engineer and a South Korean teacher have been kidnapped in the restive northwestern Yemeni province of Saada, the state news agency Saba reported Sunday.

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The agency said a German medical appliances engineer, his wife and their three children and two German nurses as well as a British engineer and a female teacher from South Korea were abducted Friday by Shiite rebels.

It quoted an unnamed provincial official in Saada, some 240 km northwest of Sana’a, as accusing “outlaws” belonging to a Shiite rebel group of abducting the nine foreigners.

The official condemned the abduction as a “disgraceful and cowardly act that targets innocent guests of Yemen, who came to provide services for its citizens”.

He said “security authorities were making efforts to secure a peaceful release of the hostages.”

The rebels, led by Shiite leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, denied their involvement in the abduction.

“The authorities’ accusations are baseless and fabricated and are part of the political deceit,” al-Houthi’s press office said in a statement emailed to journalists in Sana’a.

No tribal or political group made any immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction.

A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said seven German nationals were missing, but was unable to confirm this was the result of abduction. He said a joint crisis team had been set up in Berlin and was making contact with the Yemeni authorities.

Saada, on the borders with Saudi Arabia, has been the scene of sporadic but fierce clashes between the Shiite rebels and the army. Hundreds of soldiers and insurgents have been killed since the fighting erupted in June 2004.

The conflict-torn province is closed for foreigners except medics and aid workers.

This is the fifth abduction of foreigners in this impoverished country this year.

More than 300 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen since 1991. Almost all were released unharmed after mediation involving tribal leaders.