by Wolfgang Polzer : Jan 14, 2010 : ASSIST News Service

Government Claims to Know Whereabouts of German Family and British Engineer

The government of Yemen has started negotiations for the release of six Christian hostages.

A German family of five and a British engineer are held captive in the Northern province of Saada, according to foreign minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi. He was quoted by the German television channel ARD.

Johannes and Sabine Hentschel (both 37) and their children Lydia (5), Anna (3) and Simon (1) as well as the engineer were kidnapped six months ago during an outing near Saada. They were with two German Bible school students and a South Korean teacher. They were found murdered on June 12. The nine Christians had been working at the Al Jumhuri hospital in Saada.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has paid a surprise visit to Yemen. After a meeting with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, January 11, Westerwelle told reporters that the Yemeni government had obtained new information about the whereabouts of the hostages. If the information was correct, it would be “hopeful news,” said the minister.

Earlier the Yemeni deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alaimi had confirmed reports that the hostages are in the hands of Shiite Houthi rebels. The Germans were forced to care for wounded fighters, he said. The foreign office in Berlin would neither confirm nor deny the information.

Relatives of the East German family are still cautious about the news from Yemen . The reports were just “unconfirmed rumors”, brother-in-law Rev. Reinhard Poetschke told the evangelical news agency “Idea.”

It is not the first time that Muslim extremists have murdered hospital workers in Yemen . Two men killed three US-citizens at a Baptist hospital in Jibla, December 30, 2002. Another American was wounded. The culprits were later convicted and sentenced to death.

Yemen is one of the strictest Islamic countries. 99 percent of the 21 million inhabitants are Muslims. Small groups of Christians gather in secret.

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