Kidnappers insist on demands for Germans’ release

The German family are being held as bargaining chips for the release of five brothers imprisoned by Yemeni authorities
SANAA (AFP) — Yemeni tribesmen holding hostage a German family of five, including a retired senior diplomat, will not release them until their demand for the release of jailed fellow tribesmen is met, tribal sources said on Thursday.

Tribal chief Sheikh Al Ahmar Ali Al Aswad is holding the German family as bargaining counters for the release of five brothers who have been imprisoned by Yemeni authorities, a tribal source identifying himself as Abu Khairalah told AFP.

“The release of the five brothers is the only demand,” he said, adding that “a pledge by sheikhs of other tribes or officials to solve the issue according to tribal traditions might suffice.”

The five brothers, who belong to the Al Abdullah Al-Daham tribe, were imprisoned “because of a tribal vendetta that they have nothing to do with,” he added.

But a delegation of tribal chiefs and local councillors has been formed to negotiate a peaceful release of the hostages, an official told AFP.

“Authorities have not resorted to force to release the hostages, and will try to convince the kidnappers to release them peacefully in return for a promise to look into their demands,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile, Abu Khairalah said the hostages were in good health, and that he himself last saw them on Wednesday afternoon “after they were taken hostage,” adding that the hostages were moved afterwards to another place within the tribe’s territory.

“I saw them yesterday [Wednesday] around 1:00pm [1000 GMT] — a man in his sixties, and his wife and three children… They are in good health and have been showered with presents” from their captors, he said by telephone.

Earlier reports had said the German family was abducted some four days ago from a restaurant on the road to the southern port city of Aden from the eastern region of Shabwa, 480 kilometres east of the capital Sanaa.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin confirmed the disappearance of Juergen Chrobog — who served as German ambassador to the United States from 1995 to 2001 — and his family.

“Former foreign ministry state secretary Juergen Chrobog and his family are missing in Yemen,” the spokesman told AFP.

Chrobog, 65, served as foreign ministry state secretary under former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and was seen as a gifted crisis manager.

Ironically, he helped secure the release of 14 German tourists taken hostage in Mali in August 2003.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Chrobog travelled to Pakistan to negotiate the release of aid workers for the organisation Shelter Now being held in Taleban prisons in Afghanistan.

Reports said Chrobog and his family were guests of the Yemeni junior foreign minister, who is a former Yemeni ambassador to Germany.

As is customary in the bandit-ridden region, the German tourists had been given soldiers to accompany their two-vehicle convoy, but the kidnappers were able to seize them during a lunch stop.

“They have been getting things to eat and to drink, more than what you might expect,” said a representative from the local tour firm Abu Taleb Group (ATG), a partner of the German Studiosus group

“This is an affair of hours, at most days.”

It was the fourth abduction of foreign tourists in Yemen this year.

Last week, two Austrian tourists were held hostage for three days in the eastern Maarib region. In November, two Swiss holidaymakers were briefly held by tribesmen in the same area.

And in August, three Spaniards were abducted in the south before being released unharmed.

Despite its proximity to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Yemen is one of the world’s poorest countries and more than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in the past decade.

Nearly all of the kidnappings have been carried out by tribesmen seeking to put pressure on the central government and the hostages have generally been released unharmed.

But in December 1998, three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants were killed when security forces stormed their hideout.

Landslide kills 30 in Yemen, scores missing
SANAA (AFP) — At least 30 Yemenis were killed in an overnight landslide which hit a village on a rocky slope near the capital Sanaa with 100 people still missing, an interior ministry official said on Thursday.

Thirty corpses had been recovered from the rubble after a landslide hit the small village of Al Dhafeer, 40 kilometres west of Sanaa, while dozens were injured, he said requesting anonymity.

Yemen’s Saba official news agency said that 25 out of the village’s 31 houses were destroyed and were buried under huge piles of rocks.

The number of death is expected to rise as some 100 residents, out of the village’s total population of some 270 people, are still missing and believed to be under the mud and rubble.

“Twenty-three bodies were recovered from one house only. They belonged to the same family,” a witness told AFP.

Three people have been recovered alive from under the rubble, Saba reported.

It was not immediately clear what caused the landslide. Yemen’s seismology centre had no word of an earthquake and there were no reports of severe weather.

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