By Ahmad Shihadah
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
SA’NA, Yemen – Two American tourists have been kidnapped by armed tribesmen near Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, officials say.
Their Yemeni driver, who was also seized, later reportedly made a call to the AFP news agency, saying the attackers were demanding the release of a jailed fellow tribesman.
The US said the kidnapping of the US nationals – a man and a woman – was “not believed to be terrorism related”. Yemen’s tribes frequently kidnap people to gain leverage in rows with Sa’na.
The Americans were seized by armed men in the Bani Mansour district 70km (45 miles) west of the capital, their driver told AFP. The driver, who identified himself as Ali al-Arashi, said the kidnappers were “calling for the release of a fellow tribesman held by authorities in Sa’na.”
This is the latest kidnapping before this took place last week when two Chinese workers were taken in the Shawba governorate in the South of Yemen, then released two days later.
There has been unfortunately a bit of a side business in what are called ‘tourist kidnappings’ where, for whatever reason, a certain tribe has a particular grievance with the Yemeni government and uses the presence of foreigners for leverage,” he said.
More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in recent years; most are released unharmed. Two Chinese oil workers were freed this month after being kidnapped in the south-east of the country. In another region, however, a German married couple, their infant son and a British man are still missing after being kidnapped almost a year ago.
Last week the family’s two young daughters were located in a disputed border region by the Saudi Arabian armed forces.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Two American Tourists Kidnapped By Tribesman In Yemen – 24 May 2010
The New York Times – Two Americans Kidnapped In Yemen – 24 May 2010
AP – Gunmen Kidnap 2 American Tourists In Yemen – 24 May 2010