Last updated: 2 February, 2012

Germany says freed Yemen hostages in UN hands

The German foreign ministry said on Thursday that four foreign aid workers kidnapped in Yemen have been released and handed over to United Nations offices in Sanaa.

It welcomed the release of the Colombian, German, Iraqi and Palestinian workers taken hostage on Tuesday northwest of Sanaa where they were worked at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Yemeni Electricity Minister Saleh Sumai told AFP on Tuesday the two women and two men as well as their two local drivers had been freed in Wadi Ahjar, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Sanaa, the same area where they were abducted.

The group has since been placed under the protection of UN offices in the capital, an official at the German foreign ministry told AFP.

In Colombia, however, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin earlier told Caracol radio that the four had not yet been released despite the reports from the Yemeni capital.

“Unfortunately they have not been freed,” she said. “Since yesterday, they have been saying every two hours they are going to free them, but they still haven’t freed them.”

But Holguin said a Colombian ambassador had spoken by telephone with his country’s hostage, who said the four had not been freed yet.

“We’ve been asked not to contact them again, that all information would be given through the UN office in New York. He told the ambassador he was well,” Holguin said.

Yemen’s powerful tribes often kidnap foreigners to use as bargaining chips with the authorities. More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years. Almost all were later freed unharmed.