Yemeni kidnappers still holding Dutch couple

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Negotiations for the release of a Dutch couple kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen on Tuesday have stalled, mediators said.

SANAA - The talks broke down over demands by the kidnappers for security officers to be brought to justice over an alleged attack last year, tribal mediators said on Saturday.

Negotiations began on Tuesday with tribal chief Ali Nasser al-Siraji, leader of the kidnap, with a view to securing the couple's release in return for compensation for an incident in which a convoy headed by Siraji came under fire from a security check point, according to the mediators.

The attack allegedly took place last April on the road between Sanaa and the eastern town of Marib, and resulted in the wounding of several members of Siraji's entourage.

"He 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 has modified an initial demand, which he told AFP about on Wednesday, that the perpetrators of the alleged attack should be handed over to him.

He wanted 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."

Siraji, however, described the hostages as "guests", giving assurances that they are safe.

The interior ministry said that security forces continue to surround the area where the hostages are believed to be held.

Officials had said that the hostages were whisked away to Bani Dhibyan in an inaccessible part of the rugged Al-Siraj mountains, 90 kilometres (55 miles) southeast of the capital, after they were kidnapped while driving in a southern suburb of Sanaa.

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.

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.


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