Bible college students killed in Yemen

Sanaa, Yemen - Three aid workers in Yemen were killed and another six, including three children, are missing after they were kidnapped June 12 while on a picnic, possibly by a rebel group in an area where al-Qaida has a foothold.

Worldwide Services Foundation, a Dutch aid group that has been involved in medical care in Yemen for 35 years, said in a news release on its website that the workers belonged to its team, the Associated Press reported June 16.

Government leaders in Yemen announced Tuesday that they are offering a $25,000 reward leading to the capture of the kidnappers. The official Saba news agency in Yemen reported that six of the nine foreigners remain alive and security forces are hunting the captors, Bloomberg News said.

The bodies of three women were found by shepherds. Two of the victims were identified as Anita G. (24) and Rita S. (26) German bible school students studying at the evangelical Brake Bible School in Lemgo (West Germany), as director Matthias Ruether confirmed to the evangelical news agency.

Both Anita and Rita were nurses on a short-term internship at the Al Jumhuri hospital in Saada (North Yemen). It is supported by the humanitarian agency Worldwide Services in the Netherlands.

The two German women were first stabbed and then shot. Young-Sun I. (34) was also murdered, while the fate of the other hostages remains unclear. According to some unconfirmed press reports they have also been murdered.

Brake Bible School is in deep shock about the murder of the students. They were dedicated in their desire to help the needy. That was their sole motivation to go to Yemen. Both women belong to a Baptist church made up mainly of ethnic German emigrants from Russia.

"Our sympathy in these difficult hours goes out especially to their relatives, friends and former colleagues," Brake Bible School said in a statement posted on its website.

Worldwide Services said the workers had been serving at a hospital in the north of Yemen largely devoted to prenatal and maternity care.

"The news of the killing of the three women will be a shock also for the local people, with whom a warm relationship exists that has been strengthened by the humanitarian efforts of so many years," Worldwide Services said.

Yemen has announced a high state of alert after the latest in a string of attacks against Westerners in the Arab world's poorest nation. The Telegraph newspaper in London said foreigners often are kidnapped in Yemen for tribesmen to use as bargaining chips with the government over local disputes.

More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years, the Telegraph said, and most eventually were released. AP added that nearly all past fatal attacks against foreigners in Yemen have been carried out by Islamist militants.

Al-Qaida has a foothold in remote areas of Yemen, and last week Yemen arrested a man described as al Qaeda's top financer in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Yemeni authorities have blamed the aid worker kidnappings on a tribal group belonging to a Shiite sect, but the group has denied involvement, according to a Reuters report.

As Yemen struggles with a revolt in the north, a secessionist movement in the south and a growing al-Qaida militancy, Reuters said observers are concerned the nation could slip into chaos and provide a base for al-Qaida or pirates operating in the Indian Ocean.