World News

Five bodies found in Yemen, unlikely those of hostages

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni authorities have recovered the remains of five people in northern Yemen but do not believe the bodies are of Europeans taken hostage last year, a government official said on Monday.

A German family of five and a Briton are missing in Yemen, held by kidnappers who the government believes have links to al Qaeda.

“Information so far is that the bodies do not belong to the hostages,” a government official told Reuters.

Four bodies were recovered on Sunday and the remains of a fifth person were found on Monday.

A local source said the bodies were recovered after a Yemeni tribesman had collected several body parts he found in the Jawf province and handed them over to the authorities.

The Defense Ministry said the government would test the DNA of the remains, who were thought to be Somalis, to determine their identities.

The missing Europeans were among of nine foreigners kidnapped in the northern region of Saada last June, of which three women -- two Germans and a South Korean -- were later found dead.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, which occurred in an area where Shi’ite rebels have been fighting government troops on and off since 2004.

That conflict, which drew in oil exporter Saudi Arabia in November, appears to have calmed down following a ceasefire agreement but analysts say peace is unlikely to last.

The Shi’ite rebels have denied carrying out the kidnapping.

Yemen is under pressure to contain al Qaeda after the Yemeni-based regional arm of the militant group claimed responsibility for an unsuccessful attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound passenger plane in December.

Western allies and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting instability in Yemen to use the country as a base from which to prepare attacks in the region and beyond.

Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Raissa Kasolowsky