Dutch hostages in Yemen are safe: minister

1st April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A couple kidnapped Tuesday by Yemeni tribesmen are safe and being treated well, said the tourism minister of Yemen.

SANAA – A Dutch couple kidnapped by armed Yemeni tribesmen are safe and in good health, a Yemeni minister said on Wednesday after speaking to the hostages.

"The hostages said they are fine and being treated well," Tourism Minister Nabil al-Faqih told AFP, adding that he had spoken to the couple by telephone during the night.

"They hope that the problem with the kidnappers will be sorted soon," he said.

The couple who live in Yemen were kidnapped Tuesday morning in the Yemeni capital. The man is employed on a water project in the southern town of Taiz.

The couple is believed to be held hostage at a rugged mountainous region southeast of the capital, officials said.

A Yemeni 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 their hostages.

A tribal source told AFP that the chief abductor is Ali Nasser al-Siraji and that he is also demanding compensation from the government, claiming his convoy came under fire at a checkpoint last April during which six companions were wounded, two of them seriously.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, authorities confirmed the abductions but gave no further details, citing security concerns.

"We cannot say any more about the two kidnapped Dutch people for reasons of security to which we are giving priority," foreign ministry spokesman Herbert Brinkman told AFP in The Hague.

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.

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

Another official said troops are surrounding 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. Most have been released unharmed.

The Dutch foreign ministry advises people travelling to Yemen to be extra vigilant.

AFP / Radio Netherlands / Expatica

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