Successful rescue of British hostage in UAE military intelligence operation
DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that its military freed a British hostage held by al-Qaeda in Yemen who had been kidnapped 18 months ago while working as a petroleum engineer in the war-torn country.
A statement carried by the UAE's official WAM news agency said Douglas Robert Semple, 64, was freed during a military intelligence operation and taken to the Yemeni port city of Aden before being flown by UAE military aircraft to Abu Dhabi.
He was greeted at the airport by the British ambassador and taken for medical checks at a hospital, the statement said.
The statement did not say where in Yemen Semple had been held or provide any details on the rescue operation.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the release of a British hostage by UAE forces in a military intelligence operation.
"I'm pleased to confirm that a British hostage held in Yemen has been extracted by UAE forces in a military intelligence operation," Hammond said in a statement.
Hammond added that the freed hostage was "safe and well" and that Britain was "very grateful for the assistance of the UAE".
The UAE's official statement said Semple had been working as a petroleum engineer in the Yemeni province of Hadramawt when he was kidnapped in February 2014.
The WAM statement said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan telephoned British Prime Minister David Cameron Saturday evening to inform him of the operation.
Yemen has been wracked by conflict since March, when a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels.
Yemeni loyalists are backed by countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The war has killed nearly 4,500 people, many of them civilians, according to the United Nations.
Last year, British teacher Mike Harvey was released after being held for five months in Yemen following negotiations by the government in Sanaa.