German hostages in Yemen freed

20th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

A German woman working in Yemen and her visiting parents were seized on Sunday during an excursion in the mountainous region of the country.

Sanaa -- A German woman and her parents kidnapped by tribesmen were freed on Friday after mediation ended their five-day hostage ordeal in remote mountains near the Yemeni capital, a tribal source said.

"The three Germans were released on Friday at 10 a.m. local time after mediation by a tribal dignitary from the Bani Dhabyan region" of the abductors, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The German woman working in Yemen and her visiting parents were seized on Sunday during an excursion in the mountainous region, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of the capital Sanaa.

After their release the three "are now in the house of the mediator, Sheikh Abdel Qawi Ahmed Obed al-Shuraif, in Bani Dhabyan," the source said. The sheikh was to hand them over to Yemeni authorities.

A tribal official said initially that one of the kidnappers was demanding 200,000 dollars to compensate him for lost land and that police release his brother and son who were arrested four months ago over a land dispute.

The architect of the kidnapping was named as Abd Rabbo Saleh Al-Tam.

Unconfirmed reports on a Yemeni Internet site, Marebnews, said the tribal mediator had promised Tam a ransom of 100,000 dollars in return for the hostages and an assurance that he would not face prosecution.

He was also promised that the case of the two prisoners would be reviewed, according to Marebnews.

Complicating the case on Thursday, a tribal source told AFP that the tribesmen holding the family hostage were also demanding the release of two Yemenis detained in the United States for supporting al Qaeda.

The two men, who are from the same tribe as the kidnappers, are still being held in US custody despite an appeals court overturning their convictions on terrorism charges in October.

Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Moayad and Mohammed Zayed were arrested in Germany in 2003 and extradited to the United States, where Moayad was initially sentenced to 75 years in prison and Zayed to 45 years.

Yemen has repeatedly called for the release of Moayad, 60, and Zayed, 34, who after the court ruling were put under the jurisdiction of another judge and could be retried.

The US court said their convictions for giving financial support to al Qaeda and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas were based on "highly inflammatory and irrelevant" testimony from third parties who had unfairly influenced the jury.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and one of the world's poorest countries, is a strongly tribal country awash with weapons.

Tribes have abducted more than 200 foreigners over the past 15 years in a bid to extract concessions from the central government whose writ extends with difficulty over the lawless countryside.

In December 2005, five members of a German family, including a former deputy foreign minister, Juergen Chrobog, were held for three days by tribal kidnappers demanding the release by Yemen of five members of their clan.

With their demands normally met, all foreign hostages have been freed unharmed except for three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamists in December 1998. They were killed when security forces stormed their hideout.

Hammoud Mounassar/AFP/Expatica

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