Two children kidnapped because of mistaken identity [Archives:2008/1131/Local News]

February 21 2008

SANA'A, Feb. 20 ) Two Yemeni families are still suffering from the kidnapping of their children, taken by tribal groups eight months ago.

The story caught human rights organizations' and the public's attention, and they have demanded that the government take action. Abdul Allah Ali Saleh Al-Komim, 15, and Mohammed Yahya Naser Al-Komim, 17, were kidnapped by a tribe 50 kilometers

outside Sana'a. For over eight months, these children have been kept away from their school, friends and families.

Abdul Allah Al-Komim's family lives in a small home with three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. According to the family, their son was kidnapped on May 30, 2007.

“That day he was late for lunch, so I tried to call him,” said Namah Saleh Najee Al-Komim, 55, mother of Abdul Allah. But his phone was switched off.

After many attempts, Abdul Allah's mother reached him. “Abdul Allah, where are you, son?” asked Namah Al-Komim.

“I am in Bani Dhabyan”, he replied.

She was not shocked to hear that her son had traveled outside of Sana'a; she assumed that he was attending a friend's wedding. But after Abdul Allah told her that he had been kidnapped, she broke down.

“I was informed that eight individuals had kidnapped my son,” said Namah Al-Komim. “When the owner of the telecom shop where Abdul Allah worked tried to help him, the kidnappers threatened to hurt him.”

“I do not eat, nor drink water, nor sleep.” said Namah Al-Komim. “I am fasting and praying to God Almighty to save and return my son.”

“The last call I received from him was two days ago,” said Namah Al-Komim. “Every second, I think that I hear him knocking and I run to open the door, but do not find him.”

A Case of mistake identity and dispute over land

As the Al-Komim family later found out, their son had been abducted because of a land dispute between a tribe and a businessman who shared their same last name, Abdul Allah Ahmed Saleh Al-Nakeeb Al-Komim. However, the kidnappers demanded a ransom anyway. The problem revolves around land located in Al-Safiya neighborhood, valued at 3,000,000,000 YR. The kidnappers' original aims for or claims to the land are still unclear at this time.

“We [the parents] and the businessman Abdul Allah Ahmed Saleh Al-Nakeeb Al-Komim are from the same countryside, but we do not know him,” said Namah Al-Komim. “He has a problem with the kidnappers. We just share the same last name.”

When Abdul Allah's parents went to inform Abdul Allah Ahmed Saleh Al-Nakeeb Al-Komim that their son was kidnapped due to a tribal struggle over his land, Al-Komim replied that he sold the disputed land and no longer owns any part of it.

Ali Saleh Al-Komim, Abdul Allah's father, works for a rural water project run by the government.

“As for the ransom, we are not able to pay it. The only thing which we have is this simple home, which cost 3,000,000 YR,” said Ali Saleh Al-Komim. “Besides, even this home is a partnership between six people – my brothers, my sisters, and me.”

Ali Saleh Al-Komim said he tried to secure the release of his son through both tribal law and the government, but neither method worked.

Abdul Allah's father said that the tribe took his son from school. He often thinks of traveling to Bani Dhabyan, but he knows the tribe is surrounded by mountains that make it inaccessible.

Another boy kidnapped

According to government records, the same tribe was involved with a second kidnapping of 17-year old Mohammed Yahya Naser Al-Komim. Yahya Al-Komim, Mohammed's father, said his son was kidnapped by six men.

“My son was abducted in front of the mosque,” said Yahya Al-Komim. “I lost my job and took my other children out of school.”

Mohammed's five other brothers and sisters have also dropped out of school, fearing they would be kidnapped as well.

“We knew that the tribe meant to kidnap this businessman, but because our children have the same last name, they kidnapped the wrong people,” said Mohamed's father. “Although the kidnappers knew that they took the wrong people, they won't release them. Instead they asked for 70,000,000 YR.”

He added that before his son was kidnapped, he had never heard anything about the tribal land dispute that caused these events.

The family has lived in extreme fear since June 13, 2007, the day that Mohammed was kidnapped. They will not open their front door unless they know who is behind it.

Both families communicate with the kidnappers every two months.

“My son said he is fine, but I don't think he could speak freely, as he might sense that the cell phone is tapped,” speculated Yahya Al-Komim.

Yahya Al-Komim wondered why the kidnappers have not followed President Ali Abdullah Saleh's orders to return his son.

Government efforts fail

In August 2007, President Ali Abdullah Saleh directed an official paper to the deputy of the head of the cabinet demanding the return of the kidnapped children. The president's statement also called for the arrest of the kidnappers. Though more than five months have passed since the president's demand, the boys are not yet back home.

Both families are calling on the Minister of the Interior – through this interview – to launch a security campaign to rescue the two children. The kidnappers are still demanding a 70,000,000 YR ransom to return the boys.

Human rights NGOs add their support

The families have also reached out to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that specialize in human rights.

“We have sent a message to the deputy of the head of the Cabinet, asking him to direct specialized security to apply court orders [to release the children],” said Ahmed Arman, an activist with the Hood National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms.

Arman also wants to see the president's orders to punish the kidnappers enacted as well.

“Despite the fact that the parents told police about the kidnappings immediately, no action has been taken to release the abducted children,” said Arman. “In addition, the relevant security authorities refused to execute the prosecution's order to forcibly arrest the suspects and bring them to court.”

Over eight months later, stalemate remains

The dispute between the members of the Bani Dhabyan tribe and Abdul Allah Ahmed Saleh Al-Nakeeb Al-Komim did not result in 3,000,000,000 YR, or even in 70,000,000 YR. It resulted in the abduction of two innocent boys, whose only fault was sharing a name with the land's former owner.