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2 kidnapped Americans freed in Yemen

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Americans arrive at Interior Ministry
  • Release came after Yemeni security authorities surrounded the kidnappers
  • Two American tourists, driver and translator had been kidnapped
  • Kidnappers had demanded release of fellow tribesman

(CNN) -- Two Americans who recently were kidnapped in Yemen have been freed, said Mohammed Al-Basha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.

Yemeni security authorities surrounded the kidnappers and pressed them to release the hostages, the spokesman said. They are currently safe in Sanaa, the capital, he added.

They arrived at the Interior Ministry Tuesday night, the ministry said.

Their identities have not been made public.

Tribal gunmen kidnapped the two American tourists along with their driver and translator, and demanded the release of a jailed tribesman in return for their captives' freedom, Yemeni officials said Monday.

A senior member of the tribe confirmed that they have released the Americans, their driver and translator.

The government promised the tribe that if they released the hostages, it would reopen the file on the jailed tribesman and study it again, according to a Yemeni government official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The kidnappers held the hostages in the Haima district west of Sanaa, Yemeni Embassy spokesman Al-Basha said.

It is not uncommon for foreign tourists to be kidnapped in Yemen.

Two German girls kidnapped last year in Yemen were released last week, the German foreign ministry said, but family spokesman Reinhard Poetschke told CNN their kidnapped brother is probably dead.

Security forces in Saudi Arabia, which neighbors Yemen, secured the release of the two girls, the ministry said. They both were doing well.

The girls were among five Germans still believed to be held after their capture nearly a year ago.

The Germans were part of a multinational group of nine abducted last June in Yemen. Three of the hostages -- two German nurses and a South Korean teacher -- were killed by their captors shortly after being abducted.

That left the five Germans and a Briton. The group of Germans included three children.

The British Foreign Office said Tuesday it "remains concerned for the safety of the kidnapped British national."

The Saudi interior ministry said it joined Yemeni forces in securing the girls' release because it was a humanitarian matter involving children.

The rescue operation happened in the northern Yemeni province of Saada, where the group was abducted last year.

CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott and CNN Arabic Editor Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.