By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
SANA’A, YEMEN (BosNewsLife)– Christian expatriates in Yemen, including missionaries, were reviewing their security arrangements Tuesday, June 16, following confirmation of the murders of at least three kidnapped foreigners by suspected Islamic militants, a Christian group with close knowledge about the situation said.
Middle East Concern (MEC) also told BosNewsLife that South Koreans were worried they may be forced to leave the country “which would have an impact on several Christian ministries.
They fear “the murder of the South Korean might lead the Korean government to change the status of their current warning against travel to Yemen from ‘advisory’ to ‘binding’,” MEC added. This would “effectively make [Yemen] a closed country for South Korean nationals. This currently [already] applies to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.”
There had been confusion about the fate of the nine foreigners kidnapped last week during a picnic in the northern Saada province. Bodies of three women were found Monday, June 15, in the Safra district, to the east of where the group was seized Friday, June 12, by suspected Islamic militants.
The women were identified as Rita Stewjab, 25, Amita Julie, 25, both of whom were German nurses, and 22-year-old Youvet Singhum, a South Korean teacher, according to Saba news agency. She was named in South Korea as Eom Young-Sun, 34.
However there were conflicting reports about the other missing hostages, including a German doctor and his wife, their three children, and a British engineer. One report said all nine hostages were dead, while another report quoted officials saying two children had been found alive.Worldwide Services Foundation, a Dutch aid group helping with medical care in the province, said in a news release on its Web site that the missing hostages belonged to its team.
It said they had been working at a hospital in the north of Yemen, largely devoted to prenatal and maternity care. “The news of the killing of the three women will be a shock also for the local people, with whom a warm relationship exists that has been strengthened by the humanitarian efforts of so many years,” Worldwide Services said.
In Seoul, Foreign Ministry spokesman Choe Jong-hyun said the government “cannot contain its anger and shock” at the slayings.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping and killings, but Yemen officials blamed Houthi militants. The rebel group denied any involvement and accused Yemen authorities of trying to tarnish its image.
Rebels loyal to a Zaidi Shi’ite cleric, Hussein al-Houthi, have been fighting government loyalists in Saada province since 2004. In addition, “there have been increasing protests in southern provinces of Yemen, some of which have become violent,” MEC said. “These are generally motivated by a feeling that the federal government in Sana’a is not giving some of them a fair share of national resources. In view of these developments many expatriate Christians working in Yemen have been reviewing their security arrangements.”
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group, Osama bin Laden, had long been a haven for Islamic militants and was the scene of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors.
The country is also the Arab world’s poorest nation — and one of its most unstable — making it fertile territory for al-Qaida and other Islamic militants to set up camp, analysts say. The latest reported kidnappings of foreigners came as the government announced a crackdown on militants.
Yemeni authorities broke up an al-Qaeda ring operating in two provinces, a security source told the Saba news agency this week.
The ring was operating in Sana’a and Mareb provinces, and was plotting fresh terrorist attacks, Saba news agency quoted the source — who sought anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media — as saying.
The ring was responsible for previous attacks in Yemen, Saba said.
The operation came only days after the arrest of Hassan Hussein bin al-Wan, a Saudi national who arranged financing for al-Qaida in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He was caught in Mareb not far from Sana’a, the country’s capital.
As the crackdown reportedly continued, MEC said Christians in Yemen urged prayers from fellow believers for “the families and colleagues of [killed hostages] Anita, Rita and Young-Sun that they will know the comfort of Jesus.
In addition Yemeni Christians pray that the “perpetrators will be convicted by the Spirit and drawn to the forgiveness, love and true life offered by Jesus” and that “All expatriate Christians in Yemen will know the Lord’s guiding and protecting at this time,” MEC said.
They also hope South Korea will not force its nationals to leave that country, the group added. (With reporting by Worthy News’ Stefan J. Bos)