Girls aged six and four fly home from Yemen kidnap ordeal
Young Christian girls Lydia and Anna Hentschel were flown back to Germany after living for nearly a year as hostages in northern Yemen before being rescued by Saudi security forces. The fate of their parents, who served at a Protestant-run hospital before the kidnapping, is still unknown.
5/21/2010 Yemen (The National) – The two daughters of the German family kidnapped in Yemen nearly a year ago and rescued by Saudi forces on Monday now speak virtually only Arabic, their uncle said, indicating they have been separated from their parents for months.
Lydia and Anna Hentschel, who are six and four, were flown back to Germany in a military plane on Wednesday after being freed in a Saudi operation in the border region between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The fate of their parents, Johannes and Sabine Hentschel, remains unknown. The devout Christians had worked in a Protestant-run hospital in Sa’ada in the north-west of the country since 2003. Their son, Simon, who would be less than two years old, is believed to have died, said their uncle, Reinhard Pötschke, a priest. He said that only Lydia still speaks a little German.
The family was seized by gunmen on June 12 while on an excursion with two female German Bible students, a British engineer and a female South Korean teacher. The two students and the teacher were found three days later, executed with shots to the head. The fate of the engineer is unknown.
Lydia and Anna, wearing jeans and pink pullovers and clutching toys, were with a relative, a doctor and a psychologist on their flight to Dresden after undergoing medical tests in Saudi Arabia. “They are in good condition, considering the circumstances,” said a spokesman for the German foreign ministry.
Neither looked sunburned or malnourished but their relatives in Germany said they still hardly recognised them. “You can tell that they haven’t been on a holiday,” Mr Pötschke said. “No one can imagine what they went through.”
They girls are being cared for by family members and shielded from the press. Unconfirmed German media reports said the girls appeared to have been looked after by an Arab family, which would explain why they speak Arabic. Their lack of German suggests they have not had contact with their parents for a long time.
The brutality and length of this hostage drama may be explained by media reports that Mr Hentschel had been trying to convert Muslims to the Christian faith.
Der Spiegel, a leading German news magazine, reported that Johannes Hentschel had been threatened after he spoke to a Muslim man about religion in a teahouse in Sa’ada. In a letter sent to friends in Germany, Mr Hentschel had said: “I encouraged him to read the Bible,” Der Spiegel reported.