Italian Hostage Released in Yemen

Published June 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

An Italian archaeologist and four Yemenis kidnapped on June 16th by armed tribesmen have been released unharmed, police said Tuesday. 

"The hostages have been freed safe and sound following tribal mediation and thanks to pressure exercised by the authorities," a police official told AFP. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Italy's ANSA news agency quoted the family of Alberto Alessio as saying he would soon return to the Yemeni capital Sanaa, before returning to his family in Turin in northern Italy. 

Alessio -- the latest victim of a wave of kidnappings of foreigners to plague Yemen -- and his Yemeni companions were snatched Friday in the lawless eastern province of Marib. 

They were taken to the mountainous region of Sirwah, some 140 kilometers (85 miles) north of Sanaa, where the Yemeni army had surrounded them. 

The Italian foreign ministry said, however, that the kidnappers had released their hostages around 5:00am (0200 GMT) not far from where they were originally snatched. 

The ministry gave no details of the negotiations, which secured Alessio's release. 

The kidnappers had issued a list of demands through tribal mediators, including compensation for 1996 floods, royalties from a pipeline, which runs through oil-rich Marib, a school and roads to be built, and a ransom. 

The police did not specify whether any of the kidnappers' demands had been met. 

Alessio, vice-president of Turin's Bricherasio Palace foundation, arrived in Yemen on June 14th to arrange for an exhibition on ancient Yemen, currently being staged in Rome, to move on to Turin. 

Yemen’s unruly tribes have abducted more than 200 foreigners, mostly Westerners, since the early 1990s. They are normally used as bargaining chips in disputes with the Sanaa government or foreign oil companies. 

Almost all hostage-takings have been resolved without bloodshed and the kidnap victims are generally well treated, but an exception was the seizure of group of Western tourists in December 1998 by Islamic militants. 

Four tourists died in a botched rescue operation. 

The latest kidnapping came just a week after a Norwegian diplomat on tour through Yemen was killed in a shootout between kidnappers and police on the outskirts of Sanaa -- SANAA (AFP) 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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