French hostages to be freed soon [Archives:2006/983/Local News]

September 21 2006

SANA'A, Sept, 19 ) The release of the four French tourists held hostages by tribmen will be released very soon, according to Presdent Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“They will be released today, tomorrow or the day after,” Saleh said when asked about the tourists. He added that the kidnapers asked for YR 500 thousand and a car to release the tourists.

“The government won't give them a Riyal,” he confirmed, vowing harsh actions against the kidnappers.

Yemen has deployed troops to try to secure the release of the four French tourists along with their Yemeni translator who were kidnapped- on Sept. 10 in the eastern Shabwa governorate, 480 km east of Sana'a. But the French government asked Yemen not to use any type of force to free the hostages.

The kidnappers, who belong to Al Abdullah bin Hada tribe, asked for the release of five jailed relatives in exchange of releasing the French men.

The Yemeni news agency Saba was reporting that the release of the French men was supposed to be on Tuesday on the basis of the agreement between the kidnappers and the mediators. Saba quoted Shalal Mohammad AbdulSalam, one of the Al Abdullah bin Hada leaders saying that the kidnappers, five men of Al Abdullah bin Hada tribe, agreed on Sunday to release the captives after the security authorities agreed to move their relatives in Abyan prison to Sana'a to fairly try them after elections.

The mediators said earlier on Monday they had sought to secure the Frenchmen's release by offering substitute hostages from the families of provincial officials, including the head of the prison where the kidnappers' relatives are detained.

“But the head of the detention centre refused at the last minute to offer up one of his sons to the kidnappers' tribe who retaliated by refusing to release the Frenchmen,” said a tribal leader, who took part in the talks to the AFP's correspondent. The source said that one of the French hostages is suffering heart condition.

Members of the same tribe were behind the kidnapping of a former German diplomat and his family in December. Juergen Chrobog, his wife and their three children were released unharmed after being held for three days. According to local authorities resources the kidnapping of the French tourists was a result of the failure of the governmental authorities to fulfill their promises to release the jailed members of their tribes' members in exchange of freeing the German family at that time.

The jailed tribesmen are being held over a blood feud against members of a rival tribe in the same region, media sources quoted officials.