German couple leaves for home after Yemen kidnap ordeal
A German couple, taken hostage by tribesmen in western Yemen for five days and released Friday, left Yemen for Frankfurt early Tuesday, airport sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The sources said Heinrich Thielebein and his wife boarded a Turkish Airlines plane to Istanbul, where they were to catch another flight to Frankfurt.
The couple's daughter was also kidnapped and subsequently released. Officials said she chose to stay in Yemen and continue her work with the German technical cooperation society (GTZ).
The three were released unharmed Friday and handed over to a Yemeni government representative who secured their freedom after four days of talks with the kidnappers.
Sources close to the negotiations told dpa that the abductors set them free after the government representative promised to meet their demands.
The abductors had called for the release of two relatives jailed in Sana'a over the kidnapping of five local engineers last year.
The three Germans were abducted during an excursion in a historical area in south-eastern Sana'a on December 15.
In remarks to Yemen's state TV after his release, the father said his ordeal had not affected his fascination and love for Yemen.
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.
In December 2005, a former German government minister, his wife and three sons were kidnapped by tribesmen in south-eastern Yemen and released unharmed a few days later.
More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen since 1991. Almost all were released unharmed after mediation involving tribal leaders.
The most recent abduction took place on September 19 when armed tribesmen took two Colombian engineers hostage for three days in southern Yemen and demanded the release of a fellow clansman detained by police in connection with criminal offences.