A British man held for more than a year by Al-Qaeda in Yemen arrived home Tuesday, declaring himself “incredibly grateful” to the United Arab Emirates forces who rescued him.
Petroleum engineer Bob Semple, 64, was kidnapped in Yemen’s vast desert Hadramawt province in February 2014. UAE forces announced Sunday they had freed him in a military operation and taken him to Yemen’s main southern city of Aden.
“I am delighted and relieved to be back home safely and to be reunited with my family after such a long time,” Semple said Tuesday after completing his journey.
He and wife Sallie thanked the British Foreign Office, charity Hostage UK, “and the UAE forces who secured my release”.
“We are incredibly grateful to you all,” he said in the statement, issued by the Foreign Office. “It is great to be home.”
Kidnapping has long been rife in Yemen, which has been wracked by conflict since March, when a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
Yemeni loyalists are backed by countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The war has killed nearly 4,500 people, many of them civilians, according to the United Nations.
Last year, British teacher Mike Harvey was released after being held for five months in Yemen following negotiations by the government in Sanaa.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local branch of the jihadist network, is considered among its most dangerous affiliates and has taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to seize territory including Hadramawt provincial capital Mukalla.