French hostage talks in Yemen still deadlocked

14th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

SANAA, Sept 14, 2006 (AFP) - Complex talks between kidnappers and Yemeni authorities to secure the release of four French tourists taken hostage in lawless Shabwa province of southeast Yemen remained deadlocked on Thursday.

SANAA, Sept 14, 2006 (AFP) - Complex talks between kidnappers and Yemeni authorities to secure the release of four French tourists taken hostage in lawless Shabwa province of southeast Yemen remained deadlocked on Thursday.

"The kidnappers and their tribe have informed the new mediators that they are still waiting for a positive response from local authorities" for an exchange, a tribal source close to the kidnappers told AFP.

He said the tribal hostage-takers were demanding guarantees in the form of the handover of four children of local officials and the director of the detention centre where fellow tribesmen are being held.

"They refuse to discuss any other solution," he said, although local authorities have so far turned down the proposal.

A security delegation representing Yemeni authorities has taken over the negotiations after the failure Tuesday of a mediation effort by a delegation of tribal leaders. They were due to meet the kidnappers on Wednesday.

On Thursday, government forces maintained a siege on the remote mountainous region where the kidnappers were holed up with the Frenchmen, whose identities have not been disclosed, a local official said.

The authorities said Wednesday they would give the captors more time to free the Frenchmen, after the kidnappers threatened to kill the hostages if force was used.

The captors, in the ordeal which has lasted five days, have been trying to use the hostages to put pressure on the government to free the jailed members of their tribe.

According to a tribal source, the kidnappers are members of the al-Abdullah bin Daham tribe which also abducted a German family of five last December.

The tribesmen abducted the French tourists in protest at the authorities' failure to keep promises to release jailed members of their tribe in exchange for freeing the German family at the time, the source said.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen in the past 15 years, particularly between 1991 and 2001.

The hostages have generally been released unharmed, but three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants were killed when security forces stormed their hideout in December 1998.

France has called for the tourists, who were seized on Sunday along with their Yemeni translator, to be freed unharmed.

"We hope a positive outcome can be reached quickly, allowing our compatriots to be freed safe and sound," foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told reporters.

The latest hostage crisis is unfolding as Yemenis prepare to go to the polls to elect a new president and local councils on September 20, with President Alui Abdullah Saleh seen as virtually certain to win a new term in office.

Election officials have voiced concern for the security of 315 foreign observers, including 121 Europeans, invited to supervise the polls.

"Special security measures have been taken to protect the elections and the international observers," said a security official in the electoral commission, Seif al-Sharabi.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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