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British hostage freed by UAE forces in Yemen 'safe and well'

Published 23/08/2015

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the British national is safe and well
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the British national is safe and well

A British national held hostage in Yemen is "safe and well" after being freed by United Arab Emirates forces, David Cameron has said.

The Briton, named by the UAE's state news agency as Douglas Robert Semple, 64, was released in a military intelligence operation.

He had reportedly been working as an engineer when he was kidnapped in February last year.

Mr Cameron said he was "so pleased" for the family of the Briton and thanked the UAE forces for the rescue mission.

He said: "I'm so pleased for the family of the British hostage in Yemen - who has been released safe and well. Thanks to the UAE for their help."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond , who is in the Iranian capital Tehran, said the Briton was receiving support from UK officials.

He said: "I'm pleased to confirm that a British hostage held in Yemen has been extracted by UAE forces in a military intelligence operation.

"The British national is safe and well and is receiving support from British Government officials. We are very grateful for the assistance of the UAE."

Mr Semple has now spoken to his wife by telephone and will return to the UK after medical checks have been completed, the WAM news agency said.

He is believed to have been taken hostage by al Qaida.

Several Britons have been recently kidnapped in impoverished Yemen, where abductions are frequent as armed tribesmen and al Qaida-linked militants take hostages in an effort to swap them for prisoners or cash.

British-born American Luke Somers, 33, was shot dead by his Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAB) captors in December as they fought US special forces attempting to extract him and South African teacher Pierre Korkie.

He was kidnapped in September 2013 in the capital Sanaa while working as a photojournalist.

In July 2014 Mike Harvey was released five months after being captured in Sanaa.

His abduction was the third to take place in Yemen in only two weeks. On February 2 last year, another Briton working with an oil services company was kidnapped in Sanaa. Two days earlier, a German citizen was also kidnapped.

In April 2010 the then British ambassador to Yemen, Tim Torlet, escaped unharmed when a suicide bomber wearing a school uniform detonated an explosives belt as he made his way to work in Sanaa. The following October his deputy, Fionna Gibb, escaped a rocket attack in the city.

The UAE is involved alongside Saudi Arabian forces in combating the Iran-supported Shiite Houthi rebels and allied units of Yemen's fractured military as the country collapses into chaos.

Saudi Arabia began bombing military installations in Yemen in March after receiving a request for help from president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who left the country by sea as the Houthis pushed towards the port city of Aden.

The air strikes had the support of several other countries in the region, but were condemned by Iran, which described the operation as an "invasion" and a "dangerous step" that will worsen the crisis.

Saudi Arabia and its allies believe the Houthis are tools for Iran to seize control of Yemen, though the Houthis deny they are backed by Tehran.

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