The Saudi Interior Ministry says Saudi security forces, working alongside their Yemeni counterparts, freed two young German girls held captive somewhere in Yemen for almost a year. Yemen is accusing al-Qaida of responsibility in their kidnapping.
The release of the two young girls was good news for Germans who had followed their case with interest. It did not, however, bring a close to the 11-month saga, because the children's parents, a sibling, and another man remain missing.
Both parents, their three children, and other members of a Baptist religious group were kidnapped in the war-torn northern province of Saada, last June. The bodies of three other foreigners, kidnapped with them, were later found by Yemeni security forces.
Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al Turki says Saudi forces rescued the two children in cooperation with their Yemeni counterparts:
He says Saudi security forces launched an operation to rescue the two young girls after they had been held in captivity for almost a year, inside Yemen. He adds the operation was a success and the girls are now being examined by medical personnel. He goes on to say the rescue operation was carried out in tandem with Yemeni forces, and the girls were taken to a safe place, from where they will be sent home.
German officials reported the girls were in good health and would be repatriated Wednesday. Foreign Minister Guido Westervelle thanked Saudi Arabia for releasing the children, but noted the fate of the rest of their family remains unknown.
"We are concerned about their fate," he said, "we hope for a happy end for them and continue to put all our efforts toward this goal." The German couple had worked at a Yemeni government hospital in Saada province since 2003.
Yemen Post newspaper editor-in-chief Hakim Almasmari says he believes Yemeni security forces found the two children and handed them over to Saudi Arabia:
"According to the Yemeni government, the Saudis were the ones who found the children, but our sources in the border areas say that there are no Saudis on Yemeni territory, which means that the Yemeni government gave them to Saudi Arabia," said Almasmari.
Almasmari insists the girls had been located several days ago and their release comes as no surprise:
"We met with the head of German intelligence four days ago and told him that we expect the kids to be released any time soon, so it was expected," he added.
Yemeni officials have accused a local branch of al-Qaida of the German family's kidnapping, but no one from the group has claimed responsibility.