ADEN, Yemen (AFP) – A former German top diplomat said he still had fond feelings for Yemen as he and his family headed home after a four-day hostage drama at the hands of Yemeni tribesmen.
“Despite everything, I love Yemen,” said Juergen Chrobog, a former ambassador and foreign ministry number two who was snatched on a road in the east of the country on Wednesday with his wife and three sons.
The five were released Saturday after security forces backed by army solders laid siege to the kidnappers’ hideout in the small village of Al-Saeed and seized four hostage-takers.
It was the fourth abduction of foreign tourists in Yemen this year. Two Austrians were freed in December after being held for three days.
After meeting with Yemen’s president, Chrobog, 65, and his family boarded a Lufthansa plane chartered for their return to Germany, and told reporters that they were going home to Cologne.
The family was seized by tribesmen who reportedly sought to use them as bargaining chips in a tribal vendetta.
They were abducted from a restaurant on the road between the port city of Aden and Shabwa, which lies 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the capital Sanaa.
“We were worried during the first few hours after we were kidnapped. But the kidnappers told us they were not terrorists,” Chrobog said, adding that he then felt “reassured”.
However, he noted that “during our time in captivity, we saw some children of the tribe were carrying guns when they should have been at school.
“I think that this country’s problem is education. Such children should be in schools. But it seems unfortunately that there are no schools (in their region) and so they have to create tribal zones to resolve their problems.”
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh received the former hostages at the presidential palace prior to their departure, where he wished them a Happy New Year and assured them that their kidnappers would be “punished.”
“Kidnappings are unacceptable and against the law,” Saleh said, adding that the Germans’ kidnapping did not have “political motives” and therefore was not “an act of terrorism.”
“It was the work of individuals disowned by their society and their tribe. They will have to account for their actions and they will be punished,” Saleh said.
Three Yemeni drivers were also freed along with the family.
Their release followed mediation efforts by a team made up of tribal chiefs and government representatives who negotiated with the hostage-takers.
Tribal chief Sheikh al-Ahmar Ali al-Aswad was said by tribal sources to have been holding the Germans as bargaining chips for the release of the five brothers he said were wrongly imprisoned by Yemeni authorities.