A Yemeni walks amongst portraits on the graves of those who were killed in the prolonged conflict, at a cemetery in Sana'a, Yemen, 12 December 2022. EFE-EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

5 UN employees released after 18 months in al-Qaeda captivity

Sana’a, Aug 11 (EFE).- The United Nations confirmed on Friday the release of five of its security personnel in Yemen after 18 months in al-Qaeda captivity.

The employees from the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) were abducted in the southern governorate of Abyan on Feb.11, 2022, after returning from a field mission.

A UN statement said Secretary-General António Guterres was “delighted to learn of their release,” noting that the released men were all “in good health.”

Deputy spokesperson for the UN chief, Farhan Haq, identified the five men as Akam Sofyal Anam, Mazen Bawazir, Bakil al Mahdi, Mohamed al Mulaiki, and Jaled Mujtar Sheij.

Guterres was “profoundly relieved that their ordeal and the anxiety of their families and friends have finally come to an end,” his Haq said in the statement.

“The Secretary-General reiterates that kidnapping is an inhumane and unjustifiable crime, and calls for the perpetrators to be held accountable,” it said.

“He also expresses his solidarity with other people still held against their will in Yemen.”

The UN did not provide details on how the men were liberated.

The southern separatist forces of Yemen, supported by the United Arab Emirates, announced the release of Akam Sofyal Anam in a military operation against an al-Qaeda hideout in a mountainous area of Abyan province.

Anam, a Bangladeshi national, was kidnapped along with four Yemeni colleagues by al-Qaeda militants who attacked their vehicle during a field mission in Abyan.

Six months later, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video of Anam, urging the international community and the UN to fulfill the demands of the captors, which included ransom and the release of their jailed members.

Al-Qaeda has previously kidnapped members of the Yemeni security forces and civilians in the same area.

Militant networks of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are active in the southern provinces of Yemen, engaging in conflict with each other for control of the territory and attacking security forces.

Established in 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula reached its peak power in 2015 and 2016 in southern Yemen, but its presence has been diminishing due to drone strikes and internal conflicts. EFE