SANAA, (AFP) – Gunmen suspected of links to Al-Qaeda kidnapped two Finns and one Austrian in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, security officials told AFP.
One official said the three included an Austrian man and a Finnish man, both students of Arabic, and a Finnish woman who arrived recently in Yemen.
The official said the two students, who had been studying for months at an Arabic language and Oriental studies centre in Sanaa, and the Finnish tourist were preparing to travel to the southern port of Aden via second city Taez when they were abducted.
“Al-Qaeda is suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping,” the official added.
“Al-Qaeda threatened 10 days ago to kidnap foreigners and to stage bank hold-ups if it does not obtain from the authorities the release of members from an imprisoned network,” the official said.
The source believed the hostages were still in Sanaa.
“It is unlikely that the kidnappers were able to leave the capital with their hostages, as the entrances and exits are controlled by the security forces,” the official said.
The Austrian foreign ministry confirmed that a 26-year-old man language student from Vienna was among those kidnapped.
The ministry said that it had had no contact with anyone claiming responsibility for the kidnapping, or any ransom demand.
A Yemeni security official said earlier that the three were kidnapped at gunpoint.
“Four masked gunmen in a vehicle attacked a shop in central Sanaa and abducted three foreign tourists — a woman and two men,” said the official.
The source said the trio were kidnapped from an electronics store.
“An investigation is under way to track them down,” he said.
Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years, many of them by members of the country’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the authorities.
Almost all of them have later been freed unharmed.
But Al-Qaeda is also held responsible for abductions in Yemen, including that of a Saudi diplomat, Abdallah al-Khalidi, who remains in the hands of the extremist network since his kidnapping on March 28 in Aden.