Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Yemenis locate German hostages - German minister


Guido Westerwelle briefs journalists on the issue of the hostages

Germany's foreign minister has said Yemeni officials told him they knew where five German nationals abducted in Yemen seven months ago were being held.

Guido Westerwelle made the comments after talks in Sanaa during his surprise visit to the Gulf country.

Five Germans and a Briton were seized in Yemen while picnicking in June.

Mr Westerwelle is the first Western minister to visit Yemen since a local al-Qaeda branch said they tried to bomb a US airliner over Detroit in December.

Last week, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - the Nigerian man accused of attempting to detonate a bomb on the Amsterdam-Detroit flight on Christmas Day - was charged with the attempted murder of 290 people and five other counts.

The plane landed safely after passengers and crew overpowered him.

Hostages 'alive'

Mr Westerwelle was speaking after talks with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday morning.

Saada map
12 June 2009 - seven Germans, including three children, a Briton and a South Korean seized in Saada
All adult hostages worked at local hospital
Two Germans and the South Korean, named as Eom Young-Sun, are killed shortly afterwards
Six remaining hostages presumed dead by German officials
7 Jan 2010 - Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi says six hostages are alive
10 Jan 2010 - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle says Yemen knows where hostages are held

"The president told me that he has new information, a bit over two-hours-old, that the site where the German citizens are being held is known.

"I cannot confirm this. If this were the case, it would be a sign of hope, a bit of news to give us hope. We want to secure the freedom of our compatriots in the interest of humanity.

"If there is new information, if the government of Yemen thinks it knows where they are, we welcome it and hope that everything is done to free them unharmed and can return to their families," Mr Westerwelle said.

Last week, Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi said the six hostages were still alive.

The hostages, including three children, were seized while picnicking in the northern Saada region. The kidnapped adults all worked at a local hospital.

Two German nurses and a South Korean aid worker - who were part of the group - were found dead later in June.

The Yemeni government has blamed a local Shia rebel group, led by Abdulmalik al-Houthi, for the kidnapping, but it has denied any involvement.

The group has fought a sporadic insurgency in the Zaidi Shia heartland between Sanaa and the border with Saudi Arabia.

A local tribal leader in the area, speaking anonymously to the Associated Press news agency, has blamed al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda is known to have operated in the area, and analysts say it may be regrouping in Yemen after coming under pressure in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

More than 200 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Yemen in the last 15 years, often for ransom. But most have been released unharmed.

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