Yemeni kidnappers have released a Finnish couple and an Austrian man missing since being taken hostage in the capital Sanaa in December 2012, a senior Yemeni security source said on Thursday.
The source told Reuters the trio, who Yemeni officials have said were studying Arabic in Yemen, had been freed on Wednesday night after mediation by authorities in neighbouring Oman, who, he added, had paid a sum of money for their release.
"The Omani authorities led mediation efforts and paid a ransom to free the Austrian and Finnish hostages," a senior Yemeni security source told Reuters. "They were handed over to the Omani authorities last night," the source said. He declined to specify the amount of the ransom.
Kidnappings of Westerners occur sporadically in Yemen, mostly carried out by al Qaeda militants and tribesmen.
Lawlessness in the Arabian Peninsula state has alarmed its neighbour and top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States, which increasingly views Yemen as a front line in its struggle against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The Austrian hostage, Dominik Neubauer, had appeared in a video posted on YouTube in February with what appeared to be a an AK-47 rifle pointed at his head, saying he would be killed if ransom money was not paid to a Yemeni tribe within a week.
In his mid-20s, Neubauer was snatched along with the Finns by tribesmen in the centre of Sanaa on Dec. 21, according to the Yemeni government. Yemen has said the three were later sold to members of al Qaeda and transferred to the small town of al-Manaseh south of the capital.
The names of the Finns were not immediately known.
A Swiss woman held hostage for nearly a year in Yemen was freed by her kidnappers and flown to Doha in February following mediation by Qatar.
Armed tribesmen had kidnapped the teacher in the western Yemeni port city of Hudaida in March 2012 to press the Sanaa government to free jailed relatives, a Yemeni official said.