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UAE forces rescue British hostage in Yemen

Yemeni loyalists are backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 August, 2015

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The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that its military freed a British hostage in Yemen kidnapped 18 months ago while working as a petroleum engineer.

Forces from the United Arab Emirates have rescued a British hostage held for more than a year by Al-Qaeda in Yemen, authorities in London and Abu Dhabi said on Sunday. 

A statement carried by the UAE's official WAM news agency said 64-year-old Douglas Robert Semple, a petroleum engineer, had been kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in February 2014 in Yemen's vast desert Hadramawt province. 

It said UAE forces had freed Semple in a military operation and taken him to Yemen's main southern city of Aden, from where he was flown to Abu Dhabi.  

It provided no further details about the operation.  

The Foreign Office in London confirmed that a British hostage in Yemen had been freed by UAE forces but did not identify him and also provided no further details. 

     Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan phoned British PM to inform him of the operation.

"I'm pleased to confirm that a British hostage held in Yemen has been extracted by UAE forces in a military intelligence operation," Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement released while he was in Tehran to reopen the British embassy

Hammond added that the freed hostage was "safe and well" and that Britain was "very grateful for the assistance of the UAE". 

The statement carried by WAM said Semple had been met at the airport in Abu Dhabi by UAE officials and the British ambassador. 

He was taken to hospital for health checks and spoke to his wife by telephone, it said. He was to leave for Britain following the medical checks. 

WAM said Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan had telephoned British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday night to inform him of the operation.

Kidnapping has long been rife in Yemen, which has been wracked by conflict since March, when a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the rebels. 

Yemeni loyalists are backed by countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.   

The war has killed nearly 4,500 people, many of them civilians, according to the United Nations.  

Last year, British teacher Mike Harvey was released after being held for five months in Yemen following negotiations by the government in Sanaa. 

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local branch of the jihadist network, is considered among its most dangerous affiliates and has taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to seize territory including Hadramawt provincial capital Mukalla.

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