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Sunday, September 10, 2006

French tourists abducted in Yemen

Four French tourists have been kidnapped by armed tribesmen in Yemen.

They were reportedly abducted while travelling in a tourist convoy in the south-eastern Shabwa province.

A local official said the abduction had been carried out by tribesmen who wanted to press the government to release relatives from prison.

It is the latest such abduction. Most victims are usually released unharmed, but President Ali Abdullah Saleh has promised to crack down on the problem.

An official at the French embassy in Yemen told the Associated Press news agency that they were in touch with the Yemeni authorities and hoped to resolve the issue soon.

"We received a phone call from one of the hostages and he told us they were being treated well and were healthy, physically and mentally," deputy chief of mission Denis Douveneau said.

History of kidnappings

Local officials said the tourists were abducted by members of the Abdullah tribe.

The same clan kidnapped a former German diplomat along with his wife and three children last year but released them unharmed after three days.

Earlier reports had suggested that two of the four kidnapped tourists were German, but French authorities later confirmed all were French.

Hundreds of tourists and expatriates have been kidnapped in Yemen in the last decade by tribesmen demanding a better standard of living or the release of relatives in prison.

Although most come to no harm, several were killed in 2000 when the Yemeni armed forces attempted to rescue them in a botched raid.

In January, five Italians held in captivity for less than a week were released after their captors were cornered by security forces in northern Yemen.

At least two convicted kidnappers have been executed in the country this year as a deterrent against the practice.

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