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Yemen says 3 female hostages killed

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  • NEW: Six hostages still believed to be alive, Yemen's state-run news agency says
  • South Korean teacher, two German nurses in training found dead, Yemen says
  • Initial reports cited Shiite militants in abductions
  • But Houthi rebels blame drug cartels and regional tribes, news agency says
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(CNN) -- Three women who were seized along with six other foreign workers in Yemen have been killed, Yemeni government officials said Monday.

South Korean officials discuss the kidnappings Monday. A South Korean woman reportedly was killed.

South Korean officials discuss the kidnappings Monday. A South Korean woman reportedly was killed.

"It is with profound sorrow that the Yemeni government reports finding three bodies," according to a statement from Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for Yemen's Embassy in the United States.

The statement said the dead were identified as a South Korean teacher and two German nurses in training, all in their 20s. They were found in the Noshour Valley in Safrah district in the province of Saada.

The women were abducted Sunday along with five other Germans, including three children, and a Briton, according to Yemen's state-run SABA news agency. Earlier, the Yemen Post said seven of the nine hostages were killed, citing the country's interior ministry.

But SABA reported later Monday the remaining six were believed to be alive, and security forces were searching for them

Albasha said the nine foreigners left the city of Saada without police escorts that are required due to the "heightened security situation" in the area.

"This event was a heinous crime and constitutes not only a violation against the peaceful principles of Islam, but also the precepts of humanity," the embassy spokesman said. "Moreover, it does not reflect the good traditions and culture of Yemen."

The Germany Foreign Ministry said it is in close contact with the German Embassy in Yemen but couldn't confirm any details at this stage.

Initial official statements said the group was apparently seized by Houthi rebels, Shiite militants who have been fighting the government for years, according to SABA. The militants are hoping to derail the peace and reconstruction process in Saada, which has been rocked by war in the past year, according to SABA.

However, the news agency later reported Houthi rebels accused drug cartels of abducting the group and killing the three. In addition, SABA said a spokesman for the rebels accused regional tribes of being behind the kidnappings and slayings.

Sunday's abduction was the latest in a string of kidnappings of foreign workers in Yemen this year. All the previous hostages had been released unharmed, including 24 medical workers whom armed tribesman seized last week in Yemen's Amran province.

CNN's Caroline Faraj, Diana Magnay and Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.

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