German girls freed in Yemen raid

German girls freed in Yemen raid
# 18 May 2010 20:52 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Two German girls aged 3 and 5, who were kidnapped in Yemen last year by suspected al-Qaeda militants, have been freed by security forces from Saudi Arabia in a cross-border raid, APA reports quoting website.
The two sisters, named only as Anna and Lydia, were among a party of nine foreigners seized in June last year during a picnic in Yemen’s mountainous Saada province, known to be a haven for al-Qaeda.
Their parents, Johannes and Sabine, along with their brother Simon, aged 1, were also captured.
The girls are being treated in a Saudi hospital and will be flown home to Germany this week. Their parents are still unaccounted for but a spokesman for the family said today that Simon was probably dead.
“The girls are unharmed and in a stable condition. They will be transferred to Germany as soon as possible,” General Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, said.
An unnamed British engineer was also among those kidnapped. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Two German nurses from the party, Anita Stewjab, 25, and Rita Julie, 24, and a South Korean teacher, Eom Young-Son, 34, were found murdered soon after the kidnapping took place. They had been shot and stabbed.
Saudi troops were tipped off by local tribesmen that the two girls had been separated from the other hostages and were being held in a village close to Yemen’s border with the kingdom.
“Our security forces received intelligence that the two little girls were being held very close to the border. It was decided we must do something to save them,” General al-Turki said.
“We have no information at the moment on the rest of the family or the other hostages.”
The Foreign Office said today that it remained “very concerned” for the safety of the British hostage. Sources in Yemen confirmed that negotiations were ongoing to establish the whereabouts of the remaining hostages.
In January, the Yemeni Government said that it had received information that the remaining hostages were still alive. Reports in Germany at the time claimed a ransom of $2 million (£1.4 million) had been demanded for their release.
No group has ever claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but sources in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, say it is believed the hostages are being held by a group affiliated to al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda has regrouped in Yemen behind the jihadist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. With the Government facing an uprising by Shia Houthi rebels based in Saada province, and a growing separatist movement in the south, the country has provided an ideal location for al-Qaeda to reopen the training camps destroyed by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Sanaa agreed an uneasy truce with the Houthis in February this year after a six-year conflict, but initially blamed the rebels for the kidnapping. The tribe has always denied any involvement.