Thu, Apr 02, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Dutch couple in good health despite Yemen kidnapping

AP AND AFP , SANAA

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

“The hostages said they are fine and being treated well,” Tourism Minister Nabil al-Faqih said, 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.

Speaking by cellphone to The Associated Press from a village where they were being held, Heleen Janszen said five men with Kalashnikov rifles surrounded their car while the couple was driving in the capital, Sanaa.

They forced her husband, Jan Hoogendoorn, 54, to move to the back seat and made both of them put on traditional Yemeni clothing including a head scarf to escape the city undetected, she said.

“It was a very classical kidnapping situation,” Janszen, 49, said, talking on a cellphone that one of the kidnappers had allowed her to use. “We were offered lunch and tea and were allowed to take a walk and take pictures. It’s such an adventure — that’s the only way to cope with it.”

Yemeni tribes have previously seized foreigners — either tourists or those living or working in the country — to pressure the Yemeni government to meet their demands, mainly to free clan members from jail. In most cases the kidnappings are resolved and the hostages freed unharmed.

The couple, who live in Yemen, were kidnapped on Tuesday morning in the Yemeni capital and then whisked to 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 said that the chief abductor is named 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.

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 was being held in Bani Dhibyan, in an inaccessible part of the Al-Siraj mountains about 90km southeast of Sanaa.

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