- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2006

SAN’A, Yemen — Yemeni tribesmen took five Italian tourists hostage yesterday — one day after freeing a German family of five that included a former ambassador to Washington.

Of the five Italians, three women refused to be released later in the day, insisting on returning to their male companions who remained in captivity, local officials said.

It was the fourth abduction of foreigners in the country in three months.

“We have received a report of the kidnapping of five Italians … in Sirwah in the region of Marib,” 100 miles east of San’a, a security official said.

A local government official said three women were released shortly after and handed over to the local government in Marib, but the two men remained captive.

The freed women, however, refused to be released without their companions, the local official said.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnappings, saying it knew the identities of the hostages, but it did not give details.

A tribal source said the captors belong to the Al al-Zayidi clan, part of the Jahem tribe, and that they are demanding the release of eight members of their clan imprisoned for a tribal vendetta.

A number of Italians have been captured in the past by tribesmen.

A former top German diplomat and his family members who were taken hostage by Yemeni tribesmen in the eastern province of Shabwa were freed Saturday after security forces laid siege to the kidnappers’ hide-out.

Juergen Chrobog, a former ambassador to Washington and a former deputy foreign minister, and his wife and three sons were freed and their four captors were arrested.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday dismissed the governors of Marib and Shabwa, in a move apparently related to the recurring abductions in the tribal regions.

Last month, two Austrian tourists were held hostage for three days in the Marib region. In November, tribesmen briefly held two Swiss vacationers in the same area.

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

However, three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamic militants were killed when security forces stormed their hide-out in December 1998.

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 there in the past decade.

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