President Saleh Meets Chiraq in Paris Today [Archives:1998/50/Front Page]

December 14 1998

German citizens Norbert Degen, Petra Penglista, Rozwita Adlung and Inge Brunner are still being held captive by tribesmen of the Bani Dhabyan. The man and three women were captured last Sunday, December 6th at Yislah Pass – some 60 kilometers south of Sanaa, and were taken to a remote hideout in Mareb.
Meanwhile, the government has expanded its witch-hunt of Dhabyan tribesmen who are held hostage by the government. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, furious at these developments, gave the kidnappers until Wednesday, 16 December, for the release of the Germans.
At another level, the German Foreign Ministry has sent a letter to the Yemeni Government urging it to find a solution. It also insisted that whatever steps are taken should not jeopardize the lives of the hostages.
To complicate things even further, there was a failed attempt to kidnap Dutch citizens on Friday, December 11th. This resulted in additional Dutch dismay at the state of affairs.
The captives have not been deterred by official threats to execute abductors, according to a law recently passed by parliament.
A military contingent has encircled the area where the four Germans are believed to be held. This is the same place that British Council teacher David Mitchell and his family were held hostage for more than 2 week last April. They were released unharmed after intervention by tribal leaders and other influential figures.
The kidnapping of foreign tourists seems to have become a “tradition” among some Yemeni tribes. Grievances with the government, demands for better public services or even downright selfish personal greed are the main causes of this disturbing phenomenon. The Dhabyan people say they are protesting the dismissal of some 300 of their tribesmen from public employment, following political tension and the 1994 civil war.
Although no foreign hostage has ever been harmed in the 100 or so cases of kidnapping over the last few years, Yemen’s fledgling tourist industry has suffered enormously. The country has been deprived of much needed hard currency to support its socio-economic development process.