x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Yemeni forces expand search for six remaining foreign hostages

Three days after finding the bodies of three foreign hostages abducted last Friday, the Yemeni government has expanded its search for the six remaining hostages.

SANA'A// Three days after finding the bodies of three foreign hostages abducted last Friday, the Yemeni government said yesterday it had expanded its search for the six remaining hostages to include four provinces in the country's north. "The security forces with the help of the citizens in Sa'ada are conducting an extensive search for the six foreigners - a German man and his wife and their three children and a British national - after finding the bodies of two German nurses and a Korean teacher," the website of the ministry of defence quoted an unnamed security official as saying.

The expansion of the hunt for the remaining hostages and their captors comes as the interior ministry increased the reward to US$250,000 (Dh920,000) for information leading to the arrest of the kidnappers, according to the state-run Saba news agency. Earlier, Mohammed Hasan Mana'a, the governor of Sa'ada, had offered a $25,000 reward for information. Investigation teams from Britain have arrived in Sana'a to assist with the search, according to a diplomat at the British Embassy, who requested anonymity. A team from Germany was also reported by local media to be involved in the search.

The nine foreigners, who had been working at Al Jumhuri hospital in Sa'ada, disappeared on Friday. On Monday, authorities found three of their bodies dumped in Nushoor Valley, east of Sa'ada city. The hostages worked for World Wide Services Foundation, a Dutch relief group working in Sa'ada for 30 years. Officials have accused rebels of the al Houthi movement in Sa'ada, who have been fighting against the government since 2004, of the murders. The rebel leader, Abdulmalik al Houthi, has denied his group's involvement and organised a protest rally to denounce the kidnapping and killing of the foreigners yesterday in Sa'ada, in which thousands took part.

"While this protest condemns this criminal incident, we do stress the importance for disclosing the truth so the people understand who are benefiting from this crime and the motives behind it, leading to the identification of the real perpetrators," said a statement read at the rally and disseminated by Mr al Houthi's office via e-mail. Thousands marched yesterday in a government-orchestrated protest in the city of Sa'ada to denounce the same incident. They gathered in front of the hospital where the foreigners had worked.

Responding to rumours of al Qa'eda involvement, a German foreign ministry spokesman, Jens Ploetner, said there was no evidence to support the claim. "We have no information on who is behind this," he said. malqadhi@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse