Kidnapped Dutch couple in Yemen freed

14th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Dutch couple freed after being held hostage for two weeks were due to arrive in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday.

SANAA – A Dutch couple kidnapped by Yemen tribesmen two weeks ago were freed Monday evening, a government official said and the leader of the abductors confirmed that a deal had been reached.

"The hostages were freed a little while ago," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"They are with tribal intermediaries and are on their way back to Sanaa," he said, adding that tribal mediators had negotiated an agreement with the kidnappers to release the pair.

Tribal chief and leader of the abductors Ali Nasser al-Siraji confirmed that a deal had been reached to free the hostages.

"There has been an agreement and we are about to transfer the hostages to tribal mediators," Siraji told the AFP correspondent in Sanaa in a telephone interview.

The Dutch couple were due to arrive in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday, Siraji added, echoing remarks made earlier by another tribal chieftain.

"Because of the late hour and the rugged nature of the terrain, the hostages will probably spend the night with the intermediaries," the tribal chieftain had said.

Jan Hoogendoorn and his wife Heleen Janszen were kidnapped on 31 March while driving just south of Sanaa and held near Bani Dhibyan in an inaccessible part of the forbidding Al-Siraj mountains, southeast of Sanaa.

The pair were abducted to pressure the government to pay compensation for a shooting incident last year involving a convoy headed by Siraji which came under fire from a security checkpoint.

A tribal chieftain said part of the agreement to release the pair was that the kidnappers would not be prosecuted.

The Dutch foreign ministry could not immediately confirm the pair had been released.

"We have heard that they are on their way to the capital," a foreign ministry spokesman said in The Hague. "We can confirm nothing until they have been seen by embassy personnel."

Soon after the kidnapping the authorities started negotiating with Siraji through mediators to secure the release of the pair in return for compensation for the shooting incident, according to the intermediaries.

Six members of Siraji's entourage were wounded in the attack which allegedly took place in April 2008.

"He (Siraji) has insisted that he will not release the hostages until his adversaries are at least questioned (by police) and held accountable, in addition to him receiving compensation," a mediator said.

Siraji initially demanded that the perpetrators of the alleged attack should be handed over to him.

On Sunday Hoogendoorn urged the Dutch government to refrain from using violent methods to release him and his wife, in an appeal broadcast on a Dutch television channel.

"We call on the government not to use force to free us but to do it in a peaceful manner," he said.

His wife echoed him saying: "We want to survive."

Hoogendoorn also sent a message to his family "that everything is okay with us, we are treated very well (and) we are in a hospitable environment."

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.

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

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.

AFP / Expatica

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