Yemen captors of Dutch hostages offer swap

2nd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Kidnappers of the Dutch couple in Yemen say they will only release hostages in exchange for military officers who attacked them in 2008.

SANAA – Yemeni tribesmen holding a Dutch couple offered on Wednesday to trade their captives for security chiefs and soldiers who allegedly attacked them last year, giving assurances the hostages were safe.

"They are our guests. They are provided with food and are comfortable," tribal chief Ali Nasser al-Siraji told AFP by telephone, referring to the couple kidnapped on Tuesday as they drove through a southern suburb of Sanaa.

Siraji said the kidnapping was in retaliation for an April 2008 attack at a security checkpoint as his car convoy travelled between Sanaa and the eastern town of Marib, wounding six of his companions.

"We will not release the hostages until we are handed the perpetrators," Siraji said.

He named the "head of security in the province of Marib, Mohammed al-Ghadra, and Mohammed Omar, the head of central security in Marib, in addition to the soldiers who fired."

They had opened fire "without any justification," Siraji said, adding that he had tried to file formal charges but failed because of a "lack of cooperation from the public prosecution."

Tourism Minister Nabil al-Faqih said earlier he had spoken during the night by telephone to the hostages.

"The hostages said they are fine and being treated well," the Yemeni minister told AFP. "They hope that the problem with the kidnappers will be sorted soon."

An official in Sanaa, meanwhile, said security troops were tightening the noose around the area where the hostages were being held, quoted by a defence ministry-linked website.

"Security troops are besieging the area ... where the kidnappers are holding the Dutch hostages. This is part of an operation being carried out by the security authorities to arrest the kidnappers and liberate the hostages."

Sanaa governor Noaman al-Dowaid has said the tourists were whisked away to Bani Dhibyan in an inaccessible part of the rugged Al-Siraj mountains, 90 kilometres (55 miles) southeast of the capital.

Siraji, meanwhile, said he could not put the hostages on the telephone because mobile phone reception in the area was bad and he had to move away from them to a different spot to catch a signal.

The Dutch man works at a water network project in Taiz, while his wife is believed to be a teacher at a local school. Media in the Netherlands have named them as Jan Hoogendoorn, 54, and Heleen Janszen, 49.

Authorities in the Netherlands have kept a lid on the kidnapping.

"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 Yemeni official said on Tuesday that the abductors were demanding the release of two of their relatives arrested by the authorities in exchange for the hostages.

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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