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Yemen offers reward in hunt for killers of foreign hostages

YEMEN has offered a reward of US$25,000 for information leading to the capture of kidnappers said to have shot three foreign hostages.

Three women from a party of nine kidnapped foreigners were found dead in northern Yemen this week, in a rare killing that coincided with a rise in separatist and militant tensions in a country whose instability has alarmed Western countries and Saudi Arabia.

One analyst said the killings bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida but no claim of responsibility has been made.

The reward of 5 million rials from Hassan al-Manna, governor of Saada province where the nine were seized last week, was announced on the state news agency Saba yesterday.

It said authorities were searching for the remaining hostages but gave no further details.

Saba said on Monday the three were part of a group of nine - seven Germans, a Briton and a Korean - that included three children and their mother, who were kidnapped last week in the mountainous Saada region bordering Saudi Arabia.

Initially, Yemeni security officials had reported all nine were killed, but the government later said six were still missing.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the killings. "We must unfortunately assume that two of the three people found dead in Yemen were German women doing work experience. It is very sad news," Merkel said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said German experts would help identify the victims.

"This morning a team of German experts was sent to carry out a precise identification. At the moment the circumstance of the death of both women is unclear."

The women were students at a German bible school on work experience at a hospital in Saada. "They had decided to carry out an internship in Yemen because of their strong social and pastoral engagement," the school said. "We received the news of the death of our students, Anita G. and Rita S., with deep dismay."



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