The grandparents of two German children freed by Saudi Arabian Special Forces after being kidnapped in Yemen 11 months ago have spoken of their relief.
Anna and Lydia H. (4 and 6) from Saxony were abducted along with their parents and little brother in June 2009.
“We have saved the two girls,” said General Mansur al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Riyadh. “This was a rescue operation carried out on the basis of secret service information.”
Soldiers from a special unit found the girls in a village in the Shadha area of Yemen’s Saada province, near the Saudi border. There were reports of Apache helicopters overhead in the area.
But there was tragic albeit unconfirmed news – Simon, the two-year-old brother of Anna and Lydia, is dead according to security forces information. The tot’s body was reportedly found in Yemen.
The girls’ grandparents Ruth and Gottfried H. (both 78) are delighted the pair have been released.
Grandma Ruth told BILD: “I am so glad that they are free.”
And she has not yet given up hope that little Simon is still alive: “I still believe in miracles, so long as nothing is confirmed.”
But elsewhere there was less optimism. “We must assume that Simon is no longer alive,” Pastor Reinhard Pötschke, brother-in-law of kidnapped dad and husband Johannes H., said.
Joy and horror in the small Saxonian town of Meschwitz! Inge Marienfeld (75), a former work colleague of Ruth, said: “For the grandparents it is joyful and sad news. But I do not have much hope that the parents are still alive.”
Dana Riedel (33) said: “It is wonderful that the girls are free. But the news that the little boy is dead is shocking.”
A ministry statement released on the SPA news agency said the girls were freed on Monday. “Security forces in communication with Yemen counterparts were able to recover two German girls in the border region between the two countries on Monday. They were part of a group kidnapped by criminal elements last year.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) said in Berlin: “We are relieved that the Saudi Arabian security forces succeeded in releasing two of our five countrymen kidnapped in Yemen.”
He praised the operation, which he said went well in difficult circumstances. The girls are now set to return to Germany on Wednesday.
Westerwelle added: “We remain completely committed to finally bringing clarity to the whereabouts of the remaining hostages. We are full of concern for their fate.”
According to the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry, the kids arrived at the border on Monday. They are currently being examined by doctors.
The fate of the parents is still unknown.
Background: The couple from Saxony and their three children were abducted in the north of Yemen in June 2009. A British engineer, two German care workers and a South Korean teacher were also taken.
Both care workers and the teacher were found dead a few days later in the Saada province.
Kidnapping in the area is said to be co-ordinated between Shiite rebels and terrorist network al-Qaeda.