Following a crackdown campaignKidnapped French expert, two drivers released [Archives:2008/1181/Local News]

August 14 2008

By: Yemen Times Staff
SHABWA, August 13 ) Security authorities in Shabwa governorate released the kidnapped French oil expert of Algerian origin, Yasin Beizo, and his two Yemeni drivers, Hamoud Al-Kathiri and Moneer Al-Amiri, on Wednesday morning.

The Chief of Shabwa Governate's Security Department, Gen. Hamoud Al-Harithi, informed the military-affiliated website of the French man's release by phone some minutes after it occurred. Al-Harithi said that the oil expert has been working for a Yemeni gas export station in the Belhaf area of Shabwa governorate. Al-Harithi denied that the kidnapped oil expert is a French citizen and claims he is an Algerian.

In a statement to the, Al-Harithi said that security authorities are currently cracking down on kidnappers in order to arrest them and refer them to court to face trials and penalties. Al Harithi praised the efforts expended by social figures and ordinary citizens in the Laqmoush area who cooperated with the security authorities to help free the kidnapped expert.

How the incident took place

The kidnappers stopped two vehicles belonging to the Masila Petroleum Company, as they were on the way to the Lehia area. “The kidnappers then held captive the Algerian expert, along with his two drivers, and took them to Al-Khobar area before the security authorities intervened and released them,” said Al-Harithi.

Local and international media outlets quoted tribal sources as saying that the tribesmen have abducted the French engineer of Algerian origin in south-east Yemen to press authorities to free three jailed fellow clansmen.

The sources went on to say that the kidnappers took the man, who works for a giant gas exporting project, at gunpoint from the Habban area about 40 km from Ataq, the provincial capital of Shabwa.

Hours after the incident took place, police officials confirmed the abduction and said that authorities sent army and police forces to the area to pursue the kidnappers and secure the hostage's release. They said the hostage was not harmed.

The abductors, who belong to the Laqmoush tribe, demanded the release of three relatives detained by police in the neighbouring province of Hadhramout over a land dispute.

Shabwa, some 580 km southeast of Sana'a, has been the scene of several kidnappings of foreigners in recent years. Several tourists and international experts from Europe and the U.S. were held captive for weeks by tribesmen from this governorate. Last week, the French government advised its citizens to avoid traveling to Yemen because of the increased prospects of terrorist attacks and kidnappings, specifying “recent security deteriorations.” It asked those who want to travel to postpone their trips until security conditions improve.

The announcement advised people who need to go to Yemen for urgent professional reasons to take precautionary protective measures in coordination with the Yemeni authorities, adding that the Yemeni authorities are now taking more active measures to protect foreign visitors.

“The warnings released by the French Foreign Ministry will not affect French people living in Yemen, and the embassy will continue its normal activities,” said Denis Douveneau, Charge d'Affaires for the French Embassy in Sana'a.

“The commercial relations are not affected and Total, which is the biggest cooperative investment effort between the two countries, will resume normal activities, unaffected by the warnings,” Douveneau said, adding that the embassy will not reduce their personnel or transfer any French citizens out of Yemen.

Yemen enraged by French government's warning

The Deputy Chief of Mission at the French Embassy in Sana'a refused to comment on the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi's announcement, in which he said that the French warning helped the terrorists' cause.

He did say, however, that foreigners will not wait for the terrorist attacks to happen and that any terrorist issues will be taken seriously.

An official from the French Cultural Center said that the center's programs will not be affected by the French Foreign Ministry's political decision, adding that they “are assuming normal cultural activities that are not linked to political decisions; so far, there are no changes in our programs.”

Al-Qirbi had belittled the French Foreign Ministry's warning, dismissing it as “unnecessary, because the security forces have taken all measures against terrorist attacks and expanded their procedures for protecting foreigners.”

“Such announcements serve the terrorists' cause, because terrorist actions happen all over the world, not only in Yemen, and we need joint efforts to face them,” Al-Qirbi said.

In response to how this matter will affect tourism in Yemen, he said that governments warn their nationals to free themselves of any accountability. “However