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Dutch couple freed by abductors in Yemen

December 11, 2013

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A Dutch couple freed after months in captivity in Yemen said they received good treatment from their abductors as they began their trip back home early Wednesday.

Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her partner Boudewijn Berendsen spoke to reporters at the Sanaa airport as they prepared to leave the country.

Spiegel didn’t provide details about who was behind the abduction or the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping. She said she felt “a little unhappy to leave Yemen for this reason and so suddenly.”

“We are very, very, very happy of course that finally this kidnap is over,” she said. “We are doing very well, we were treated very well ... We were treated the Yemeni way, so that was very nice, from the not so nice kidnapping.”

Spiegel, who works for the Dutch national broadcaster NOS and the newspaper NRC Handelsblad, thanked those who helped secure their release.

“I hope with all my heart that these kidnappings stop,” she said. “I am looking forward to the day where Yemen is safe enough to come back to.”

The couple were snatched in Sanaa on June 8 and released in recent days close to the Dutch embassy in the Yemeni capital.

The Dutch foreign ministry said Tuesday that the couple are in “good physical condition, extremely happy to have survived their ordeal unharmed and wishes nothing more than to be soonest reunited with their family.”

Dutch Ambassador Jeroen Verheul in Yemen posted a message on his Twitter account announcing the news of their release and saying, “happy to confirm that Judith and Boudewijn have been released safe and sound. Thankful to Yemen government for their full support!”

During their captivity, the couple were seen in an emotional video clip posted online, in which a tearful Spiegel pleaded for the government, media and family to do anything to secure their release.

’Now there’s another 10 days to do something,” she said, wearing a red shirt and appearing next to Berendsen. “These people are armed. If no solution is found after 10 days, they’ll shoot us dead.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Abductions are frequent in Yemen, an impoverished nation where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages to swap for prisoners or cash. The Dutch government says it never pays ransom to free hostages.

Yemen is engaged in a rocky political transition since longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped-down in 2012 following mass popular protests.

The country’s political turmoil has created a security vacuum, which al-Qaeda has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

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