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Hostage killings reflect Yemen’s tensions

SANAA, Yemen (BP)–Three aid workers in Yemen were killed and another six, including three children, are missing after they were kidnapped June 12 while on a picnic, possibly by a rebel group in an area where al-Qaida has a foothold.

Worldwide Services Foundation, a Dutch aid group that has been involved in medical care in Yemen for 35 years, said in a news release on its website that the workers belonged to its team, the Associated Press reported June 16.

Government leaders in Yemen announced Tuesday that they are offering a $25,000 reward leading to the capture of the kidnappers. The official Saba news agency in Yemen reported that six of the nine foreigners remain alive and security forces are hunting the captors, Bloomberg News said.

The bodies of three women found Monday by shepherds were identified as two 25-year-old Germans and a 22-year-old South Korean. The remaining hostages include a German doctor and his wife, their three children and a British engineer, Saba said.

An evangelical Christian college in Germany has said the two German women were students participating in an internship in Yemen, according to AP.

“Our sympathy in these difficult hours goes out especially to their relatives, friends and former colleagues,” Brake Bible School said in a statement posted Tuesday on its website.

Worldwide Services said the workers had been serving at a hospital in the north of Yemen largely devoted to prenatal and maternity care.

“The news of the killing of the three women will be a shock also for the local people, with whom a warm relationship exists that has been strengthened by the humanitarian efforts of so many years,” Worldwide Services said.

Yemen has announced a high state of alert after the latest in a string of attacks against Westerners in the Arab world’s poorest nation. The Telegraph newspaper in London said foreigners often are kidnapped in Yemen for tribesmen to use as bargaining chips with the government over local disputes.

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years, the Telegraph said, and most eventually were released. AP added that nearly all past fatal attacks against foreigners in Yemen have been carried out by Islamist militants.

Al-Qaida has a foothold in remote areas of Yemen, and last week Yemen arrested a man described as al Qaeda’s top financer in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Yemeni authorities have blamed the aid worker kidnappings on a tribal group belonging to a Shiite sect, but the group has denied involvement, according to a Reuters report.

As Yemen struggles with a revolt in the north, a secessionist movement in the south and a growing al-Qaida militancy, Reuters said observers are concerned the nation could slip into chaos and provide a base for al-Qaida or pirates operating in the Indian Ocean.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.

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