Yemenis demand $2 mln for German hostages

Yemeni hostage-takers holding a family of five Germans and a Briton since June are demanding a ransom of $2 million for their release, news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday.

Yemenis demand $2 mln for German hostages
Photo: DPA

The report on the magazine’s website came a day after Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi said the hostages had been located in Saada in northern Yemen and that his government had begun talks to secure their freedom.

The five Germans, including three children, and the Briton were abducted together with two German Bible students and a South Korean, all women, who were shot dead soon afterwards.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who visited Yemen this week, thanked President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni authorities for doing “everything in their power” to return the hostages home safely.

Der Spiegel said that a Huthi rebel was acting as a go-between, and that the hostage-takers were also demanding immunity, free passage and a guarantee that they will not be handed over to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Sanaa has repeatedly pointed the finger of blame at Huthi rebels for the kidnappings, a charge they deny saying the government was behind the abduction as an excuse to attack the rebels and their stronghold in Saada.

The Huthis, who have since November also been in conflict with the Saudi military across the border, denied holding the hostages on Wednesday.

“To carry out kidnappings is not our way, it’s not our style, and the accusations against us are unfounded,” Mohammad Abdelsalam, a spokesman for the rebellion, told AFP by telephone.

“Our relations with Germany have been historically good,” he said, pointing out that a leading figure in the Huthi movement, Yahia al-Huthi, lived in exile in Germany.

He said the Yemeni authorities were “responsible for the fate of the hostages and any other person to be found on Yemeni soil.”

More than 200 foreign citizens have been kidnapped in the past 15 years in Yemen. The vast majority have been freed unharmed.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.