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Germany

German Hostages in Yemen Freed

Three Germans kidnapped in western Yemen were released on Friday after a five-day ordeal, news agencies citing Yemeni goverment sources reported.

A series of mud and brick buildings in Yemen

The hostages were said to be transferred to Sana'a Friday afternoon

The kidnappers of three Germans in western Yemen released their hostages unharmed Friday and handed them over to a government negotiator, security sources said.

The hostages arrived at the Sana'a headquarters of the Interior Ministry, where they met with Interior Minister Mutahar al-Masri, Tourism Minister Nabeel al-Faqih and the German Deputy Ambassador.

The three -- a German woman working for the German Technical Cooperation agency (GTZ) as well as her father and mother who were visiting -- were taken hostage on Sunday, December 15 in the Bani Dhabyan region some 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of the capital Sanaa.

Archaelogical temple dig in the desert outside Sana'a Yemen

It's difficult for the government to control the rugged countryside

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed Friday the release of the hostages, saying, "I'm very relieved that the three are free."

He said they were safe at the German embassy in Sana'a and they were well, under the circumstances.

He phoned Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Muyawar to thank him for Yemen's help. Steinmeier declined to disclose how the three Germans came free or how they would return to Germany, saying disclosure was not in their interest.

Reports of kidnappers' demands disputed

The release comes five days after the kidnapping and just one day after reports that kidnappers demanded a hostage exchange with two Yemeni clerics jailed in the United States on terrorism charges were shot down.

"We were surprised by the reports about demands by the kidnappers for the release of Sheikh Muhammad al-Moayyad and his companion Muhammad Zayed," said Skeikh Hamoud al-Dharehi, who heads an NGO dedicated to defending the two clerics.

Al-Dharehi told dpa that al-Moayyad's family and supporters "use only legal and peaceful means" to secure his release. "We have no connection to them (the kidnappers)," he said.

Countryside kidnappings not uncommon

Tribes have abducted more than 200 foreigners over the past 15 years in a bid to extract concessions from the central government, which has difficulty controlling the lawless countryside.

Most have been freed unharmed, save three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants in December 1998. They were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers' hideout.

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