Third kidnapping since the beginning of 2008Security forces sent to release two Colombian engineers and two Yemenis kidnapped in Shabwa [Archives:2008/1192/Local News]

September 22 2008

Aqeel Al-Halali
For the Yemen Times

ABYAN, Sept. 21 ) Local authorities in the Abyan governorate have dispatched security forces to set free two Colombian engineers, a Yemeni driver and another security guard after they were kidnapped last Friday. The engineers, driver and security guard were on their way to work near the Arabian Sea port of Balhaf in the Shabwa governorate, some 450 kilometers to the east of Sana'a, where they were engaged in the construction of a gas-exporting project, when they were abducted.

Ali Al-Ahmadi, governor of Shabwa, told the Yemen Times that the local authorities in the two governorates would deploy joint forces to release the hostages, if the tribal mediation with the kidnappers reached an impasse.

Sources from Abyan said that the governorate's leadership had dispatched security forces to release the hostages after tribal mediation failed to set them free.

Al-Ahmadi made it clear that the kidnappers' demands were “similar to the demands of abduction operations that took place in the past; either releasing their associates or employing relatives in the gas project”.

An official source in the company maintained that the two Colombian hostages work for a Colombian company in charge of extending an oil pipeline for the Yemen Liquefied Natural Gas (YLNG) company based on a sub-contract, and pointed out that the project's administration had informed the security authorities about the incident and was waiting for the investigation's findings.

The same source who preferred to remain anonymous said that the YLNG hadn't received any call from the kidnappers, noting that it had no idea about their demands.

This is the third abduction case this year alone. Security authorities in the Shabwa governorate set free an Algerian engineer of French origin in addition to two Yemeni drivers working for the YLNG Company less than 24 hours after their abduction in Habban district of the Shabwa governorate last month.

This past March, the district of Asilan in Shabwa witnessed confrontations between the army and citizens who had surrounded the premises of a construction company in charge of constructions for the YLNG project.

This past May, armed men abducted two Japanese tourists in the Mareb governorate and demanded the government release one of their relatives who was charged with murder. Fortunately, tribal mediation resulted in the release of the two hostages seven hours after the abduction.

According to experts, the tribal act of abduction in Yemen aims to “pressure the government to either release prisoners or provide the kidnappers' area with basic services”.

In January 2006, an armed group in Mareb kidnapped five Italian tourists and held them in Serwah for six days. Security forces were able to set the hostages free and capture the kidnappers.

In September 2006, armed men kidnapped four French tourists in the Shabwa governorate, demanding that their relatives imprisoned in the Abyan governorate be transferred to a Sana'a prison.

Most abduction incidents in Yemen end in the release of the hostages unharmed. However, in 1998, four foreigners were killed among a group of 16 tourists after the security forces attempted to break into the location where they were being held hostage in the Abyan governorate.

The Yemeni government has recently established judiciary courts specialized in abduction cases against foreigners, and has hardened punishment against kidnappers, which includes death penalty.