Authorities in Yemen said kidnappers have killed at least three of the nine foreigners abducted last week in a northern, mountainous region of the country.

Officials said Monday local residents found the bodies of three women near the town of Nashour.  Two are reported to be German and one South Korean.

Security officials later reported the bodies of four more hostages were found, but the Yemeni embassy in the United States said those reports are false. It said there is no confirmation of the fate of the remaining hostages.

A statement from the embassy called the women's deaths a heinous crime and "against the peaceful principles of Islam."

The group of seven Germans, a British engineer, and a South Korean teacher were taken hostage in the Saada region last week.

Government officials accused a Shi'ite rebel group of kidnapping the foreigners. The Houthi rebels denied any involvement and accused the government of trying to tarnish their image.

On Sunday, Yemeni authorities arrested a Saudi man, Hassan Hussein bin Alwan, suspected of being al-Qaida's top financier in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Tribesmen in Yemen often take foreigners hostage to pressure the government on a range of demands, but those foreigners are generally released unharmed.



Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.