Freed Dutch hostages fly home from Yemen

11th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch couple were heading home from Yemen Wednesday after their six-month kidnap ordeal came to an end, a Dutch diplomatic source said.

The couple, said to be in good health, boarded a plane before dawn heading to Amsterdam via Cairo, the diplomat said.

No details have been revealed on the identity of the abductors or how the pair's release, announced Tuesday, was secured.

"Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her partner Boudewijn Berendsen, abducted since June 8, have been freed," a security official said Tuesday, quoted by Yemen's state news agency Saba.

"The kidnappers freed the Dutch couple in an area near the embassy of the Netherlands and they are in a good health condition," Saba reported, without giving details.

The Dutch ambassador in Sanaa, Jeroen Verheul, confirmed via Twitter that the couple "have been released safe and sound".

The Hague said "the Yemeni and Netherlands governments are extremely pleased to welcome the news of the release".

"The couple is in a good physical condition, extremely happy to have survived their ordeal unharmed and wishes nothing more than to be soonest reunited with their family," it said.

The couple had made an emotional plea in an Internet video dated July 13 for their government to act to secure their release, warning at the time that they faced execution within 10 days by their "armed" abductors.

Dutch media said Spiegel is a journalist based in Sanaa for various Dutch news outlets, including public broadcaster NOS and financial daily NRC Handelsblad.

Berendsen is employed in the insurance industry.

Both Spiegel and her partner also teach at the Lebanese International University in Sanaa, local media reported.

Media reports said the couple were abducted from their home in the southwestern Hadda neighbourhood of Sanaa.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years, mostly by tribesmen and nearly all of them later freed unharmed.

Al-Qaeda militants have also seized foreigners in the country, including two diplomats -- an Iranian and a Saudi -- as well as a South African couple.

Yemen's powerful tribes carry out frequent kidnappings of foreigners to use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.

In May, members of a southern tribe released three Red Cross employees, including a Swiss national and a Kenyan, and two Egyptians following tribal mediation.

© 2013 AFP

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