Italy has urged Yemeni authorities to avoid the use of force to release an Italian archaeologist as the army circled the mountain hideout of his tribal kidnappers, an embassy official and police sources said Sunday.
"We have asked the Yemeni government not to use force," following the death of a Norwegian diplomat in a shootout between kidnappers and police a week earlier, the Italian embassy's deputy head of mission Orazio Guanciale told AFP.
He said the kidnappers of 33-year-old Alberto Alessio, who was snatched on Friday together with at least four Yemenis in the lawless eastern province of Marib, had issued a list of demands through tribal mediators.
"As usual in these kidnapping cases, they have asked for land, for roads to be built, a school and a ransom," said the Italian diplomat. The kidnappers were from the Khawlan federation but it was unclear which sub-tribe they belonged to.
The hostages have been taken to the mountainous region of Sirwah, some 140 kilometers (85 miles) north of Sanaa, police sources said, adding that the army had encircled the area.
Yemeni authorities, meanwhile, have made contact with Khawlan leaders to mediate with the kidnappers, who have also demanded royalties from a pipeline running through oil-rich Marib and compensation for 1996 floods, tribal sources added.
Kidnapped along with Alessio were the head of the antiquities department in Marib, two security escorts and one or two local guides, said Guanciale.
Marib, an oil-rich region 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the Yemeni capital, is the site of a 3,000-year-old dam and the ancient capital of the Sheba kingdom with its legendary queen, Balquis.
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.
The ancient art expert's father, businessman Paolo Alessio, was himself held hostage for seven months in the early 1980s by an armed gang in Italy, according to the Italian news agency ANSA – SANAA (AFP)
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