Asharq Al-Awsat and Agencies, Sanaa – Yemeni authorities have arrested a number of tribesmen related to gunmen holding three Germans hostage, security sources said on Tuesday.
The kidnappers told Asharq Al-Awsat Monday that they carried out the operation to put pressure on Yemeni authorities to release two prisoners held in Central Prison in Sanaa who had been charged for an earlier kidnapping. “We demand the release of our prisoners,” said one of the kidnappers who refused to reveal his name.
One of the hostages, Julia Thielebein, told Asharq Al-Awsat that she had been kidnapped with her parents from a region close to the capital and that they were in good health. She said that the hostages are well and that her parents are not worried.
Government forces are encircling a mountainous area where the armed tribesmen have been holding the hostages over a land dispute with another tribe since Monday.
The hostages are believed to be in an area 60 km (37 miles) east of the capital Sanaa. Thielebein told Asharq Al-Awsat that she worked for German enterprise GTZ, which is involved in the preservation of historic sites in Yemen.
A security official said on Monday the government has established contact with the tribe to try to secure the release of the hostages.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said German officials were in contact with Yemeni authorities. He declined to give further details.
Disgruntled tribesmen have often kidnapped Western tourists to demand better living conditions, schools and services in the Arabian Peninsula country, one of the poorest outside Africa.
Most have been released unharmed, but in 2000 a Norwegian diplomat was killed in crossfire and in 1998 four Westerners were killed during a botched army attempt to free them from Islamist militants who had seized 16 tourists.
In January, two Belgian tourists were killed in an attack blamed on al Qaeda-linked militants who have launched frequent attacks on government and Western targets, including a U.S. warship and a French supertanker.