2 Finns, Austrian abducted in Yemen by al-Qaeda free after four months

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 4:12am

A Finnish couple and an Austrian student abducted in Yemen by al-Qaeda militants more than four months ago have been freed and have arrived safety in Vienna, authorities said.

The two Finns, Leila and Atte Kaleva, "will return to their loved ones as soon as possible", the Finnish foreign ministry said.

"In view of the circumstances, they are in good condition. The long deprivation of liberty, however, is a traumatic experience both for those abducted and for their loved ones," the ministry's said in a statement on Thursday.

They and the Austrian man, Dominik Neubauer, 26, were being treated at a military hospital in Vienna, authorities said.

The trio, seized in Sanaa on December 21, were freed by tribesmen on the border with Oman overnight on Wednesday, a Yemeni official said. "They were kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants … demanding a ransom and the release of members held in Yemeni jails," he said.

A tribal source said the kidnappers were demanding US$50 million to release the Europeans.

According to Austrian newspaper Kronen, a ransom of €1 million (HK$10.2 million) was paid to free the Austrian.

A security source said energy-rich Qatar "offered, through an intermediary, to pay a ransom but the hostage-takers did not agree on the amount offered".

Swedish news agency TT, quoting the Finnish news agency, said the Finnish man was a military officer studying Arabic and working on a paper on political radicalisation in the Middle East.

It identified the woman as his wife, an executive in an oil company visiting her husband when the kidnapping took place.

The three were seized by masked gunmen in an electronics shop in the capital and moved to different locations around Yemen, the official said, winding up in Hawf, a village on the Omani border.

He said Hawf residents had arrested the kidnappers and set free the hostages who were handed over to Omani authorities.

In February, Neubauer appeared in a YouTube clip with a gun to his head, saying his captors would kill him unless Austria, Yemen and the European Union met their ransom demands.


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