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Germany seeks family missing in Yemen

Mideast Yemen Kidnapping
One of three retrieved bodies of slain kidnapped foreigners in Yemen on Tuesday. Officials say shepherds found the mutilated bodies of two German nurses and a South Korean teacher kidnapped in an area of Yemen known as a hideout for al-Qaida. Mohammed Al-qadhi / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Germany vowed Tuesday to do everything in its power to find and safely return a German family missing in Yemen, where three women who disappeared with them have been found dead.

Yemeni authorities said nine foreigners disappeared Friday while on an outing in the remote northern province of Saada. A British man, a German man, his wife and their three young children were still missing. Germany's Bild newspaper said the children were aged 4, 3 and 11 months, but that could not be confirmed.

A Dutch aid group helping with medical care in Yemen said on its Web site that the missing group belonged to its team.

The Yemenis said shepherds found the mutilated bodies of three women on Monday. One was identified as a 34-year-old South Korean who was working in the region and the other two as Germans.

Team of experts to ID bodies
Germany said it sent a team of experts to help identify the bodies, but Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday that two German nurses were presumed to be among the dead. He did not release the names.

He insisted the family of five was still missing despite reports from Yemen that their bodies had also been found.

"I can assure you ... we will do everything in our power to bring home those still missing in Yemen safely and in good health," Steinmeier said.

A Bible school in Lemgo, southwest of Hannover, said the two deceased German women were students participating in an internship in Yemen and identified them as Anita G. and Rita S.

"Our sympathy in these difficult hours goes out especially to their relatives, friends and former colleagues," the Brake Bible school said in a statement posted Tuesday on its Web site.

A man identified as Albert S. and who said he was Rita S.'s father told the Neuen Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that relatives had warned her the internship could be dangerous, but that she was determined to work with Yemen's poor.

"She was an angel," he was quoted as saying.

Attacks on foreigners are not rare in Yemen, a poor nation on the tip of the Arabian peninsula, where al-Qaida has a firm foothold in remote areas.

Shiite rebel group blamed
The Yemen government blamed the kidnapping on a Shiite rebel group that has been leading an uprising in the province for the past several years, but the group denied it had anything to do with it. Nearly all past fatal attacks on foreigners in Yemen have been carried out by Islamist militants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We sharply condemn this act."

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Choe Jong-hyun said the government "cannot contain its anger and shock" at the slayings. The South Korean victim was identified as a 34-year-old aid worker, although Yemeni officials described her as a teacher.

The Worldwide Services Foundation did not answer its telephones Tuesday, but in a release posted on its Web site confirmed that "since Friday evening a group of nine people, among them a family with five people, is missing from its team of Worldwide Services."

It said that 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.

Initially, Yemeni security officials had reported all nine were killed, but the government later said six were still missing.