Mon, Jun 15, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Nine foreigners kidnapped by Shiite rebel group in northwestern Yemen


Seven Germans, a British engineer and a South Korean teacher have been kidnapped in the restive northwestern Yemeni province of Saada, the state news agency Saba reported yesterday.

The agency said a German medical appliances engineer, his wife and their three children and two German nurses as well as a British engineer and a female teacher from South Korea were abducted on Friday by Shiite rebels.

It quoted an unnamed provincial official in Saada, some 240km north west of Sana’a, as accusing “outlaws” belonging to a Shiite rebel group of abducting the nine foreigners.

The official condemned the abduction as a “disgraceful and cowardly act that targets innocent guests of Yemen, who came to provide human services for its citizens.”

He said “security authorities were exerting efforts to secure a peaceful release of the hostages.”

Security sources said that the nine people went missing after they went on an excursion south of Saada on Friday.

The German engineer works for the state-run al-Jumhori hospital in Saada.

“They have gone missing in mysterious circumstances,” a security official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said a wide-scale search operation was ongoing, adding that authorities “have not got any information about their whereabouts at the time being.”

Local sources in Saada said the group might have been abducted by armed tribesmen.

Saada, on the borders with Saudi Arabia, has been the scene of sporadic but fierce clashes between the Shiite rebels and the army. Hundreds of soldiers and insurgents have been killed since the fighting erupted in June 2004.

The conflict-torn province is closed for foreigners except medics and aid workers. The rebels are led by the Shiite rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and are known as Houthis.

This is the fifth abduction of foreigners in the country this year.

It took place one day after tribesmen kidnapped 22 local and foreign doctors, working for a Saudi-financed hospital, and their family members in Saada.

The kidnappers released the hostages the next day after the intervention of tribal mediators. They were seeking to put pressure on authorities to release two fellow clan members jailed in Sana’a.

Disgruntled tribesmen from impoverished areas of Yemen often take hostages to use as bargaining chips to press the government for aid, jobs or the release of detained fellow clansmen.

On March 31 tribesmen kidnapped a Dutch couple from a Sana’a suburb demanding the release of jailed fellow tribesmen. The two hostages were freed unharmed after two weeks in captivity.

On Jan. 18, tribesmen abducted a German oil expert in the southeastern province of Shabwa and released him two days later. The kidnappers demanded the release of a jailed tribesman.

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