Tribesmen kidnap French engineer in southern Yemen

Other News Materials 13 August 2008 03:25 (UTC +04:00)

Tribesmen abducted a French engineer of Algerian origin Tuesday in south-eastern Yemen to press authorities to free three jailed fellow clansmen, tribal sources said.

The sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the kidnappers took the man, who works for a giant gas exporting project, at gunpoint from the Habban area about 40 kilometres from Ataq, the provincial capital of Shabwa, the dpa reported.

Shabwa, some 580 kilometres south-east of the capital Sana'a, has been the scene of several kidnappings of foreigners in recent years.

Police officials confirmed the abduction and said that authorities sent army and police forces to the area to pursue the kidnappers and secure the hostage's release. They said the hostage was not harmed.

The abductors, who belong to the Laqmoush tribe, demand the release of three relatives detained by police in the neighboring province of Hadhramout over a land dispute.

Armed tribesmen from impoverished areas of the Arabian peninsula country often take hostages to use as bargaining chips with the government to press for aid, jobs or the release of detained fellow clansmen.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped since 1991 in Yemen, almost all released unharmed after mediation involving tribal leaders.

The latest kidnapping took place in May when a group of armed tribesmen abducted two Japanese female tourists and held them for several hours in the north-central city of Marib.

In September 2006, two armed clansmen held four French tourists for two weeks in the south-eastern province of Shabwa. They were sentenced to 12 years in prison.

In January 2006, tribesmen abducted five Italian tourists, including three women, and held them hostage for five days in a mountainous village in Marib. Six of the kidnappers received jail terms of five to 20 years.

The kidnapping of the Italians took place one day after the release of a German diplomat, his wife and three sons by tribesmen who took them hostage for several days in Shabwa.

In 1998, an Islamic militant group kidnapped 16 Western tourists, four of whom died in a botched rescue attempt by police forces, and in 2000, a Norwegian diplomat was killed in a similar rescue attempt.