German Diplomat Hostage Confirmed to be in Mareb Governorate [Archives:2001/34/Front Page]

August 20 2001

Yemen Times learnt that the kidnapped German Embassy’s Commercial Attaché, Rainer Berns, is now confirmed to be held in lawless Mareb governorate. “He is hidden in a location that no one could ever imagine and no one could figure out,” a source close to the kidnappers said. The kidnappers were earlier identified by tribal and official sources to belong to the Islamic Jihad fundamentalist movement. On Friday night August 17, A number of prominent sheikhs of Mareb started negotiating with two Jahm tribesmen suspected to have assisted the Islamic Jihad members in their kidnapping operation. This has been made in an effort to locate the missing German diplomat and have him released. 
In addition, General Naji Al-Sufi, governor of Mareb, met with a number of Jahm sheikhs with the presence of the two members of Jahm Tribe, who conveyed the USD 1 million demanded by the kidnappers in exchange for the kidnapped German’s speedy release. Official sources revealed that Al-Sufi met with Mohamed Ali Al-Zaidi who is one of the two tribesmen who gave his assistance in the kidnapping operation. Al-Zaidi is the main person accused of assisting the kidnappers in their operation as he is also a member of the Islamic Jihad Movement. 
Yet, an Islamic Jihad leading figure denied that the Islamic Jihad as a whole was in any way involved in the incident. He declared, “Islamic Jihad is not officially declaring its responsibility of the kidnapping. However, we do not deny that members of Jihad may be involved in the kidnapping. But those simply do not represent our official stand as a movement.” Shoura Council Member Muhsin Ali Mua’ili and Bani Dhabian’s Sheikh, Ahmed Obad Shuraif, along with Sheikh of Murad, Ali Qibli Nimrar and officials from the governorate have all been continuing their mediations with the two tribesmen and the Sheikhs of Jahm. However, the tribe is openly denying direct involvement, but it says it knows where the kidnapped German is. 
A Saturday morning meeting held in Mareb resulted in the decision to give a 1-week period for the Jahm tribe to come out with a solution to the crisis either by having the kidnapped released, locating where he is, or identifying the kidnappers. “This 7-day period is considered a last chance for the Jahm tribe to come out with concrete positive action else the government will be not to blame for any action it takes,” one of the mediating sheikhs told YT. On the other hand, there seems to have been false reports by some news agencies that the kidnappers reduced their ransom amount to USD 30,000. 
According to YT Mareb correspondent, just yesterday, the kidnappers confirmed and reconfirmed their demand of no less than USD 1 million. The kidnapping group consisted of several Islamic Jihad members along with two tribesmen from the tribe of Jahm in Mareb. 
The vehicle’s use and kidnapping plan were coordinated between the tribesmen and some prominent figures of Islamic Jihad. 
“There are certain demands that have not yet been revealed besides the USD 1 million ransom. The Islamic Jihad seems to be determined to pressure the government to release imprisoned Islamic militants possibly suspected of their involvement in various incidents.” a tribal figure told YT on condition of anonymity. 
The Jahm tribe’s members insisted on that their demand of a ransom of USD 1 million must be met before they could negotiate the diplomat’s release. However, they also stated that the ransom will also be used to carry out similar kidnappings to achieve additional releases of Islamic Jihad members. 
Interestingly, the kidnappers have been carrying out their operations using highly-sophisticated mobile phones connected to satellites. 
“The way the incident occurred along with the preciseness and efficiency of the operation reveals that the incident was simply too sophisticated to be carried out by normal tribesmen,” a security official said. 
Berns was abducted on July 27 by unidentified men from his car in the diplomatic quarter of Sanaa on 60-meter Street as he was coming from the airport with his wife. 
Last Saturday, the former ambassador of Germany to Yemen and the present Ambassador met with President Saleh who promised a quick release of the kidnapped diplomat.