x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Foreigners kidnapped in Yemen

Nine foreigners, mostly women and children, have been kidnapped by Shiite rebels.

Nine foreigners, mostly women and children, including seven Germans, a British engineer and a South Korean woman teacher, have been kidnapped by Shiite rebels in Yemen, officials said. The group were seized in the restive Saada region of north Yemen by rebels who have been fighting the government in Sana'a for five years, said a local authority official, cited by the defence ministry news website September Net.

The German group includes a couple, three children and two women nurses, according to the official, who did not say when they were taken hostage. They belong to an international organisation which has been working at a hospital in Saada for the past 35 years, the official said. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The official said they were taken hostage by members of the Huthi Zaidi rebel group which have been fighting the government since 2004.

Kidnappings of foreigners are a frequent occurrence in Yemen as tribesmen often use them to twist the government's arm in local disputes. More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years. In all the documented cases, the hostages have been freed unharmed, except for three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants in December 1998 who were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers' hideout.

In April, a Dutch couple were held for two weeks by tribesmen to pressure the government to pay compensation for an incident involving a tribal chief and security forces. The country has also seen a spate of attacks on foreign and government targets, most recently suicide bombings against South Korean tourists claimed by the local branch of al Qa'eda. The government and Huthi rebels signed a Qatari-brokered peace deal last June but there has been repeated wrangling about its implementation.

*AFP