Yemen kidnappers free Finnish couple, Austrian

SANAA Thu May 9, 2013 3:00pm EDT

1 of 2. Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja arrives at a news conference in Helsinki May 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva

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SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni kidnappers have released a Finnish couple and an Austrian man more than four months after they were seized in the capital Sanaa.

The trio were freed on Wednesday night after mediation by authorities in neighboring Oman, who paid a sum of money for their release, a senior Yemini security source told Reuters. Austria and Finland confirmed the release on Thursday.

"The Omani authorities led mediation efforts and paid a ransom to free the Austrian and Finnish hostages," the security source told Reuters. "They were handed over to the Omani authorities last night."

He declined to say how much was paid.

Austria's foreign ministry said the three had been flown to Austria on Thursday and were receiving medical and psychological treatment.

The Austrian, language student Dominik Neubauer, was in good physical health considering the circumstances, the ministry said.

Austrian Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger thanked Oman's Sultan Qaboos for his "personal support".

Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said his country did not pay ransoms but had no information about whether Oman had done so.

The minister added freed hostage Atte Kaleva worked for Finland's army, without going into further details, but had visited Yemen while on leave to study Arabic. Finnish media said Kaleva's wife Leila was visiting him when they were kidnapped.

LAWLESSNESS

Kidnappings of Westerners occur sporadically in Yemen, mostly carried out by al Qaeda militants and tribesmen.

Lawlessness in the Arabian Peninsula state has alarmed its neighbor and top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States, which increasingly views Yemen as a front line in its struggle against al Qaeda.

Neubauer appeared in a video posted on YouTube in February with what appeared to be a an AK-47 rifle pointed at his head, saying he would be killed if ransom money was not paid to a Yemeni tribe within a week.

Neubauer, in his mid-20s, was snatched along with the Finns by tribesmen in the centre of Sanaa on December 21, according to the Yemeni government. Yemen has said the three were later sold to members of al Qaeda and transferred to the small town of al-Manaseh south of the capital.

A Swiss woman held hostage for nearly a year in Yemen was freed by her kidnappers and flown to Doha in February following mediation by Qatar.

Armed tribesmen had kidnapped the teacher in the western Yemeni port city of Hudaida in March 2012 to press the Sanaa government to free jailed relatives, a Yemeni official said.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa, Georgina Prodhan in Vienna and Terhi Kinnunen in Helsinki. Writing by William Maclean, editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (2)
meanjean22 wrote:
Great news for the kidnapped, bad news for any other Westerners still in Yemen. With these rich Arab countries mediating and paying nice ransom money – kidnapping is looking better all the time for the bad guys. Thanks Oman. Thanks Qatar.

May 09, 2013 3:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
The Finnish couple must be really happy they were not finnished… :D
(sorry, couldn’t resist)

May 09, 2013 10:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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