SAN’A, Yemen, (AP) – Yemen accused a Shiite rebel group Sunday of kidnapping nine foreigners in the country’s rugged north.
The Interior Ministry said the foreigners were kidnapped Friday by a rebel group led by Abdel Malak al-Hawthi while on a picnic in northern Sada province.
The ministry did not identify the foreigners, but local Yemenis in Sada said the group included a German doctor, his wife and five children, as well as a Briton and his wife. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal.
The state news agency Saba said the foreigners worked in a hospital in Sada.
Tribesmen in Yemen frequently take foreigners hostage to pressure the government on a range of demands and generally release them unharmed.
Tribesmen on Friday freed 24 local and foreign medics working at a Saudi-funded hospital in Sada less than 24 hours after their kidnapping, which was not carried out by the al-Hawthi group.
Thousands of people have been killed in Saada since a Shiite rebellion erupted there in June 2004. The rebels say the government is corrupt and too closely allied with the West. The government has charged al-Hawthi with sedition, forming an illegal armed group and inciting anti-American sentiment.
The group negotiated a fragile cease-fire with the government last year, but serious tension remains.