Mediation Fails to Release Swede Held by Tribesmen in Yemen

Published November 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

A tribal mediator on Wednesday failed to secure the release of a Swedish technician held hostage by Yemeni tribesmen despite a government deadline for the 69-year-old diabetic to be freed. 

The mediation by an elder of the Zaidi tribe holding Anders Salenius since November 12 "ended without results," Sheikh Jaabal Tuaiman, himself a leader of another tribe, told AFP. 

He said other mediation efforts would follow and ruled out the use of force against the kidnappers. 

Salenius has been moved to a remote mountain area a few kilometers (miles) from the kidnappers' original hideout of Mahjaza in the lawless region of Marib in eastern Yemen, he said. 

"The Swede is in good health" and has been provided with a doctor and an interpreter, he said, while police have encircled the new hideout. 

Yemeni authorities on Tuesday set a 24-hour deadline for the technician's release, as Sheikh Abdullah al-Zendani, the Zaidi elder, traveled to Mahjaza to make contact with the kidnappers. 

Salenius was working on the construction of an electricity plant north of Sanaa financed by the World Bank when he was seized. 

His kidnappers are demanding that the Yemeni government return a plot of land in the southern port city of Aden that they say was confiscated from the leader of the tribe, Yahia al-Zaidi. 

Sweden's ambassador to Libya, Bengt Sparre, held talks Monday with Yemeni Interior Minister Hussein Arab, who said the authorities were determined "to free him peacefully", an official Yemeni source said. 

The kidnapping is the first reported in Yemen since June when an Italian archaeologist and four Yemenis were abducted by armed tribesmen and freed unhurt. 

More than 200 foreigners, mostly western nationals, have been abducted by Yemen's unruly tribes since the early 1990s. They are used as bargaining chips in disputes with the Sanaa government or with foreign oil companies. 

Almost all hostage-takings have been resolved without bloodshed through mediation between the authorities and tribes, and the kidnap victims are generally well-treated. 

Penalties for kidnappings were stiffened in 1998, with perpetrators now risking the death penalty, especially if their victims are killed or injured. 

The head of an Islamist group, Zine el-Abidin al-Mehdar, was executed in October 1999 for the seizure of 16 western tourists in December 1998, four of whom were killed in a shoot-out with police -- SANAA (AFP)  

 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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