Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:22 am (KSA) 21:22 pm (GMT)

Yemeni tribesmen kidnap US couple near Sanaa

The kidnapping came less than a week after two German girls held hostage for nearly a year were rescued (File)
The kidnapping came less than a week after two German girls held hostage for nearly a year were rescued (File)

Armed Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped two U.S. tourists, a husband and wife, near the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday and were demanding the release of a jailed relative, Yemeni security officials said.

The couple's Yemeni driver and translator were also taken hostage, the officials said. The kidnappers were demanding the release of a family member in jail over a land dispute that was before the courts, a tribal source said.

"Armed tribesmen ambushed a car carrying tourists and their Yemeni driver and took them to their area," one of the security officials said. Another official said that the kidnapping was not thought to have broader political motives.

 They are calling for the release of a fellow tribesman held by authorities in Sanaa 
Captured driver Ali al-Arashi

"They are calling for the release of a fellow tribesman held by authorities in Sanaa," the captured driver, Ali al-Arashi, told AFP in a telephone call

The couple were snatched in the Bani Mansour area, 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Sanaa, and taken to Hamra village, the driver said.

Yemen, bordering the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, surged to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Kidnappings of foreigners and Yemenis are common in the impoverished Arabian peninsula country, where hostages are often used by disgruntled tribesmen to press demands on authorities.

Most hostages taken in Yemen have been freed unharmed, but in 2000 a Norwegian diplomat was killed in crossfire and in 1998 four Westerners were killed during an army attempt to free them.

The fresh kidnapping came just under a week after two young German girls held hostage for nearly a year in Yemen were rescued near the Saudi Arabian border.

The girls were members of a family of five who have been held by kidnappers who the Yemeni government believes have links to al-Qaeda. Three other foreigners kidnapped alongside the family were found dead last year.

The United States and Saudi Arabia want Yemen to focus its efforts on fighting al-Qaeda, fearing the global militant group will take advantage of Yemen's instability to spread its operations to the neighboring kingdom and beyond.

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