September 10 2001

The kidnappers of the Commercial Attaché of the German Embassy, Rainer Berns, 55, denied through one their associates last Wednesday reports that they demanded their amnesty in return of the release of the kidnapped diplomat.
The two brothers and kidnappers, Ahmed Ali Ali Al-Zaidi and Mohammed Ali Ali Al-Zaidi who belong to Islamic Jihad, re-affirmed their demand of ransom in addition to other demands not yet revealed. Those demands may include a guarantee to flee the country, as they will probably face a severe punishment that could reach a death sentence. They confessed however that they made concessions by reducing drastically the requested amount. According to the kidnappers, the ransom demand could be reduced to around USD 100,000.
Tribal sources close to the kidnappers had also revealed internal disputes among the kidnappers regarding the need to ask for amnesty as well as the ransom amount. “Once they get the money they will find tens of ways to escape the scene and possibly leave the country to Afghanistan,” a tribal figure hinted.
This comes as massive security forces are still surrounding the Serwah area of Jahm tribe, to which the kidnappers belong and where Berns is probably held captive. The security measures are at their maximum as any movement in or out of the region is strictly prohibited.
As we were going to press, no tribal mediations had started between the kidnappers and the government because the sheikhs willing to mediate on behalf of the government were unable to locate the kidnappers. Mediations were further hindered by the fact that the Jahm tribe abandoned the kidnappers considering them outlaws who should not be supported and who are considered a disgrace to the tribe, especially that their demands were unfair, unlike previous kidnappings in which demands ranged from educational projects to compensations.
“We are ashamed that the kidnappers belong to our tribe,” a prominent sheikh of Jahm said.
To express the tribe’s position of abandoning the kidnappers, Jahm tribe voluntarily presented the Governor of Mareb, Brigadier General Naji Al-Soufi with 18 tribesmen as hostages. Among those hostages, are the immediate relatives of the kidnappers who disappeared from the region two weeks ago leaving no traces whatsoever and leaving the security forces helpless except in surrounding the Serwah village.
By maintaining the siege and keeping hostages away from the Jahm tribe, authorities believe that they could pressure the kidnappers to free the hostage without any ransom demands whatsoever. However, the situation there suggests the contrary, as the kidnappers have expressed a desperate need for money to leave the country and settle elsewhere. “They have lost their links with their own tribe and have nothing to lose. They will probably not let the hostage go without being paid the demanded ransom,” a tribal figure close to the kidnappers’ associates told YT Mareb correspondent.
The authorities have stressed out that the government will and shall never bow to demands of the kidnappers by giving out any money. However, they continue to study possible means and strategies to have Berns safely released through peaceful means.
Similarly, the German embassy denied any attempts to get involved in the negotiations or its willingness to give the demanded ransom. “We confirm our trust in the Yemeni government to exert great efforts to have Mr. Berns released,” a diplomat of the embassy told YT. At the same time, the embassy expressed grave concern about the health of Mr. Berns and the effect of the incident on his Iranian wife.
It is worth mentioning that this is the most sophisticated and mysterious kidnapping incident that the country had ever witnessed since the emergence of kidnappings in the early 1990s. The security forces’ inability to locate the kidnappers and hostage until today is yet another indication of the mystery of this incident. What further complicates the incident is that the kidnappers belong to an Islamic movement and took part in Islamic activities in Afghanistan which is giving the incident political dimensions.
Mr. Rainer Berns was kidnapped on July 27 by unknown militants from the busy 60-meter street in Sana’a after arriving with his family from Sana’a airport.