Al-Qaeda gunmen have seized a Japanese engineer from his tribal kidnappers in Yemen, a tribal source said on Saturday. "The hostage was seized by elements of Al-Qaeda, who took him to an unknown destination in the Maarib region," one of two tribal mediators told AFP.
The man, identified by Japanese media as 63-year-old Takeo Mashimo, was kidnapped on Sunday in Arhab, northeast of Sanaa, by tribesmen seeking to exchange him for one of their relatives being held by police. He was seized by Al-Qaeda on Friday night, with a second mediator saying Al-Qaeda became involved after being approached by someone close to the arrested tribesman who was opposed to the Japanese hostage's release.
The 22-year-old man whose release was being sought by the tribesmen was imprisoned by American troops for a year in Iraq, according to a source in Yemen. He was later detained in Syria before being held in Sanaa, where he was sentenced to two years in prison without charges, the same source said.
Sheikh Abdul Jalil, a tribal leader, announced on Tuesday that the hostage had been freed but backtracked the following day, admitting he had been mistaken. "The abductors had said they would free the hostage and had left to get him but when they came back they said they had changed their mind," he said.