As The Kidnapping Series Against Europeans Continue  With The French How Long Will This Continue? [Archives:1999/34/Front Page]

August 23 1999

SANA’A: Efforts to release the head of the French embassy’s cultural section, Mr. Irenee Herbert, 28, and his wife,who is an archeologist Mrs. Tara Steimer Herbet, 30, contnued for the third day. Both are said to be linked to the embassy as contract employees, and not diplomats. 
The two French were kidnapped at around 3:00 pm last Friday while travelling on a trip as tourists from the Marib region. The French man and his wife along with a member of Al-Ashraf tribe were in a traditional marketplace in the Sirwah area some 140 km east of the capital Sanaa. Entering Sirwah has been declared forbidden to foreigners because of many incidents, particularly, kidnappings, etc. However, due to the fact that Mrs. Herbet was an archeologist, she seemed to be doing some kind of study that required her to go into the area.Then the two French went through an unpaved road in an area called Habab (an area located in Khowlan/Bani Jabr, Bani Saad). Their driver, the tribe member from Al-Ashraf stopped the car to go to mosque for prayer. The car which was tracked by the kidnapping tribesmen was surrounded and the hostages were taken away. Despite the efforts of the driver to release them in tribal means, the kidnappers refused to release them. 
The kidnappers, who belong to Al-Jabr tribe drove the abducted to a geographically rough area in a mountain called Al-Khanq so that police forces cannot reach them easily. 
Later in the same day, the tribesmen were convinced that the two French civilians will not be as useful as they thought, especially since they claimed to be teachers and were about to be set free. Ironically,on Saturday, they changed their minds after hearing from international news agencies and TV channels that the two kidnapped were French diplomats. This immediately influenced them and they insisted on keeping them captive in an effort to coerce and blackmale the government into paying them a lucrative reward. 
Sheikh Faisal Juzeilan was the person behind the kidnapping. In order to release the couple, Juzeilan, a prominent Sheikh from Al-Jabr tribe, demanded the government to pay compensation for flood damage that occurred a few years ago in the tribes area, as well as other demands; such as machinery equipment, for agricultural use. 
The government is trying not to directly interfere in the negotiations with Al-Jabr tribe. It instead, is depending on Al-Ashraf tribe , which is continuing its negotiations with the tribal members to release the kidnapped hostages. 
Taking this to another level, the French government is putting intense pressure on the Yemeni government, within the past two days to release the hostages. It is expected that joint efforts by the French and Yemeni governments will eventually lead to the release of the hostages, as it has done in other kidnapping cases. 
Some rumors stating that the kidnapped were the French Embassy Commercial Attache had spread all over the country. Later on, news came stating that the Commercial Attache, Mr. Micel Dhe was not kidnapped and in fact, was at the Chancellery on Saturday. 
Even though the French embassy in Sana’a refused to comment or identify the hostages, the issue seems to have risen in the international arena , while the French government pressures the Yemeni government for a swift and unconditional release of the two hostages. 
This incident is the last, in a series of kidnapping incidents that continue to happen, especially to Europeans. Reality is beginning to take its toll on the country’s tourism industry which is currently going through the most devastating periods of its time. Yet the question of whether this will end or not is still not answered! 
In a special statement to Yemen Times yesterday, Nasser Ali Al-Hayyal, sheik of Al-Jabr tribe said, ” Police forces from the Al-Watada unit are currently proceeding to our tribe’s location at to Iyal Al-Saeed in Mareb in an attempt to exert pressure to release the hostages. However, they know that reaching us takes a lot of time and effort.” However, reports say that the hostages are in fact not in the area where the troops are heading to because the kidnappers took them to another area where troops cannot easily reach.