Yemenis march to protest at hostage killings

Other News Materials 17 June 2009 21:32 (UTC +04:00)

Thousands of Yemenis marched on Wednesday in protest at the killing of three foreign hostages as security forces expanded the search for six still held by kidnappers, Reuters reported.

Groups of students, clerics, politicians, tribesmen and state employees carried banners across Saada, the center of the mountainous province where the nine were seized last week in an attack that an analyst said bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

The killing of the three women coincided with a rise in separatist and militant tensions in a country whose instability has alarmed Western countries and Saudi Arabia.

"Islam rejects aggression and crime," chanted some marchers, while others carried a banner reading "Those behind the attacks have no conscience."

State media said security forces backed by helicopters had expanded the search for the kidnappers into three neighboring provinces.

Yemen has pledged to hunt down those behind the killing of the hostages, identified by officials as two German nurses and a Korean teacher, and offered a reward of $275,000 for information leading to the capture of the kidnappers.

The nine comprised seven Germans, a Briton and a Korean, according to state media, and included three children and their mother.

Yemeni authorities have blamed the Houthi tribal group, who belong to a Shi'ite Muslim sect, for kidnapping the nine foreigners, a charge the Houthis have denied.