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Abducted U.N. workers free after 18 months in Yemen

al Qaeda thrives in war-torn country of Yemen
Yemen civil war continues as al Qaeda strengthens its presence in the region 02:17

The United Nations said Friday that five staff members who were kidnapped in Yemen 18 months ago have been released.

In a brief statement, Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said all "available information suggests that all five colleagues are in good health." 

A November 24, 2021 file photo shows Houthi fighters attending the funeral of fellow rebel fighters killed in fighting with forces of Yemen's internationally recognized government, in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed/AP

Haq named the freed men as Akm Sufiul Anam, Mazen Bawazir, Bakeel al-Mahdi, Mohammed al-Mulaiki and Khaled Mokhtar Sheikh. All worked for the U.N. Department of Security and Safety, he said.

"The secretary-general reiterates that kidnapping is an inhumane and unjustifiable crime, and calls for the perpetrators to be held accountable," Haq said. The identity of the kidnappers was not revealed, and no details were provided about what led to the captives' release.

In February 2022, suspected al-Qaida militants abducted five U.N. workers in southern Yemen's Abyan province, Yemeni officials told the Associated Press at the time.

File photo of a street in Yemen's southern province of Abyan on July 5, 2022. AFP via Getty Images

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has been active in southern Yemen for years. It is considered one of the global network's most dangerous branches and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.

Kidnappings are frequent in Yemen, an impoverished nation where armed tribesmen and militants take hostages to swap for prisoners or cash.

Yemen has been ravaged by war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the country's capital, and much of the north, and forced the government into exile. 

A Saudi-led coalition that included the United Arab Emirates intervened the following year to try to restore Yemen's internationally recognized government to power.

Al-Qaida has since exploited the conflict to cement its presence in the country.

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