UAE forces free British hostage from Al Qaeda

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UAE forces free British hostage from Al Qaeda

Abu Dhabi - Robert Douglas Semple was kidnapped 18 months ago in Yemen.

By Wam, AFP

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Published: Mon 24 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 24 Aug 2015, 12:36 PM

Forces from the UAE have rescued a British hostage held for more than 18 months by Al Qaeda in Yemen, authorities in Abu Dhabi and London said on Sunday.
Robert Douglas Semple, a 64-year-old oil worker, had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda in February 2014 while working in Yemen's Hadramawt province, a stronghold of the militant group.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, telephoned British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday night to inform him that the UAE Armed Forces operating in Aden had reached the location in Yemen where UK citizen Semple had been kidnapped by the terrorist Al Qaeda organisation.
During a military intelligence operation, the UAE forces had freed Semple, taking him to Aden from where he was flown on a UAE military aircraft to Abu Dhabi.
This action by the UAE forces in Aden is renewed evidence of the UAE's unchanging policy towards terrorism in all of its forms and manifestations. It also confirms the strong and friendly relations between the UAE and Britain.
It further provides a good example of the importance of strengthening coordination and cooperation while facing up to and eradicating terrorism.
On arrival in Abu Dhabi, Semple was received at the airport by UAE officials and the British ambassador. He was immediately taken to hospital for checks on his state of health.
The UAE authorities also arranged for Semple to speak with his wife by telephone to inform her that he had been rescued and was safe.
Semple will leave the UAE for the UK after all necessary medical checks and treatments have been completed.
The Foreign Office in London confirmed that a British hostage in Yemen had been freed by the UAE forces. "I'm pleased to confirm that a British hostage held in Yemen has been extracted by the 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 said the freed hostage was "safe and well" and that Britain was "very grateful for the assistance of the UAE".
Cameron later tweeted: "I'm so pleased for the family of the British hostage in Yemen - who has been released safe and well. Thanks to the UAE for their help."
Backed by the coalition, pro-government forces retook Aden in mid-July and in recent weeks have been pressing a major offensive against the Houthi rebels.
As well as Aden, they have recaptured four other southern provinces and in recent days have fought fierce battles for control of Yemen's third largest city, Taez.
The conflict has killed more 4,500 people since March, according to the United Nations.
Kidnapping has long been rife in Yemen, with hostages often used as bargaining chips between rival groups.
Earlier this month, French hostage Isabelle Prime arrived in Oman following her release in Yemen after nearly six months of captivity.
Last year British teacher Mike Harvey was released after being held for five months in Yemen following negotiations.
In December, US journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie died during a failed attempt by US commandos to rescue them from an Al Qaeda hideout in southeastern Yemen.
The United States has for years carried out a drone war against Al Qaeda militants in Yemen.
On Sunday a local official in Hadramawt told AFP that four suspected Al Qaeda militants were killed overnight in an apparent US drone strike in Mukalla.

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