Dutch couple kidnapped in Yemen

1st April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Yemeni government official said the abductors are demanding the release of two of their relatives arrested by the authorities in exchange for the Dutch couple.

Sanaa -- Two Dutch tourists were kidnapped by armed tribesmen in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday and were taken to a rugged mountainous region southeast of the capital, tribal sources and officials said.

A Yemeni government official, who declined to be named, said the abductors are demanding the release of two of their relatives arrested by the authorities in exchange for the Dutch couple.

No further details were released on how the kidnappings took place.

A source close to the tribe holding the hostages said relatives of the abductors are in custody in connection with involvement in a previous kidnapping of foreigners.

The governor of Sanaa, Noaman al-Dowaid, said the authorities had established that the tourists are being held in Bani Dhibyan, in an inaccessible part of the Al Siraj mountains about 90 kilometres (55 miles) southeast of Sanaa.

"The security authorities have taken all urgent measures to safeguard the lives of the tourists and secure their release," Dowaid told reporters.

Another official said troops had been sent to surround the area where the hostages are being held.

Foreigners are frequently seized by Yemen's powerful tribes for use as bargaining chips in disputes with the government. More than 200 have been abducted over the past 15 years.

In late January, a German contractor working for gas firm Yemen LNG was taken hostage and released just days later.

A month earlier, a German woman and her parents kidnapped by tribesmen were freed after a five-day hostage ordeal in remote mountains near the Yemeni capital.

In all the documented cases, the hostages have been freed unharmed, save for three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants in December 1998 who were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers' hideout.

Yemen, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland, has also seen a spate of attacks on Western targets in the past 10 years, most notably the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in the southern port of Aden in which 17 American sailors were killed.

Earlier this month, two suicide bomb attacks, one in the historic city of Shibam, targeted South Koreans, killing four tourists and a Yemeni.

On September 17, an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda targeted the US embassy in Sanaa, leaving 19 dead, including seven attackers and civilians, in the second strike on the high-security compound in six months.


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