Al-Qaeda in Yemen has denied it was holding a British hostage who the United Arab Emirates said it had rescued from the jihadists this week, according to a statement posted online.
Authorities in Abu Dhabi and London said Sunday that the British hostage, identified as 64-year-old oil worker Robert Semple, had been rescued by UAE forces in a military operation against Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
“The UAE government claimed that it freed a Briton who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda…. This news is untrue as we are not holding any British hostages,” Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the network’s Yemeni branch, said in a statement posted on jihadist sites.
Emirati state news agency WAM said Semple was rescued after being kidnapped 18 months earlier while working in Hadramawt province in southeastern Yemen.
Emirati forces are among troops taking part in a Saudi-led campaign supporting Yemen’s exiled government against Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen, which is also home to Al-Qaeda’s most active branch.
Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to seize territory including Hadramawt provincial capital Mukalla.
Kidnapping has long been rife in Yemen, with hostages often used as bargaining chips between rival groups.