Bodies of foreign hostages found in Yemen
Seven Germans, including three children and two female nurses, were abducted last week in a volatile province in northern Yemen along with a male British engineer and a woman from South Korea.
Sanaa -- The bodies of several foreign hostages have been found in Yemen, officials said Monday, the first time in almost a decade a kidnapping in the country has resulted in deaths.
Seven Germans, including three children and two female nurses, were abducted last week in the volatile Saada province in northern Yemen along with a male British engineer and a woman from South Korea.
There were conflicting reports coming out of Yemen about how many bodies had been found by the son of a tribal leader in Noshour, east of the mountainous Saada area.
One official, who also said two children had reportedly been found alive, put the number at seven. Another, at the interior ministry, said later only the women -- two Germans and one South Korean -- had been found.
"We have found the corpses of three women... who were kidnapped alongside six others," the official told the website www.26sep.net, which is linked to the defence ministry.
Another source close to the investigation said examinations had shown the corpses, including one child, had been found shot and stabbed.
The missing nine belong to an international relief group that has worked for 35 years at a hospital in Saada, which borders Saudi Arabia, an official said on Sunday.
The Yemeni authorities have accused Shiite Zaidi rebels of being behind the abductions although there has been no immediate claim of responsibility.
In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could not confirm the reported deaths of hostages. "We are pressing ahead for examination of this information. For the moment, I cannot give any confirmation," she said.
A report in Tuesday's edition of Sueddeutsche Zeitung said German intelligence services believed all nine had been killed by Al-Qaeda but did not substantiate its claims.
South Korea's foreign ministry said it had no information about deaths but was looking into the reports.
Seoul has confirmed that a 34-year-old South Korean identified only by her family name Eom has been missing in Yemen since last Thursday evening when she joined other members of the relief group for a walk.
Local sources said the group was a Christian Baptist organisation that also has a medical team in the hospital at Jebla, south of Sanaa, where an Islamist militant killed three American doctors in December 2002.
A Yemeni official on Sunday said the group was taken hostage by members of the Huthi Zaidi rebel group which has been fighting the government since 2004.
But a rebel spokesman dismissed the accusation as "baseless," and said the kidnapping took place in an area controlled by security forces in the town of Saada.
Mohammed Abdelsalam, a media officer for the Huthi, blamed the abduction on "people linked to the government and who are trying to stir up the situation because they are benefiting from our war" with the government.
"If the government... tries to deal with the situation without political ploys and media manipulation... we would give a hand... to find the perpetrators of this horrendous act," he told Doha-based Al-Jazeera television.
Foreigners are often kidnapped in Yemen by tribesmen to use as bargaining chips with the government over local disputes. More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years.
All have previously been freed unharmed, except for three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants in December 1998 who were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers' hideout.
A Norwegian diplomat was killed in a gunfight between the police and his abductors in June 2000.
In April, a Dutch couple were held for two weeks by tribesmen to pressure the government to pay compensation for an incident involving a tribal chief and security forces.