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Germans among foreigners ''kidnapped'' in Yemen

Yemeni officials say nine foreigners, including seven Germans, a Briton and a South Korean, have been kidnapped by Shiite rebels in the country. However, the Berlin government has not confirmed the news.

A view of the scenic Wadi Dawan valley in Yemen

Tribesmen often kidnap Western tourists visiting archaeological sites in Yemen

A local official quoted on the Yemeni Defence Ministry's website said the group was seized in the restive Sa'dah region in the northwest by rebels who have been fighting the government in Sana'a for five years.

The German group includes a couple, three children and two women nurses, according to the Yemeni Defence Ministry official. A British engineer and a female South Korean teacher are also among those kidnapped.

They belong to an international organization which has been working for over three decades at a hospital in Sa'dah, some 240 kilometres north of the capital, according to the official. However, he did not say when the group was kidnapped.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office in Berlin simply said the German embassy in Sana'a was in close contact with local authorities.

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping so far. However, local officials said the foreigners were taken hostage by members of the Huthi Zaidi rebel group, which has been fighting the government since 2004.

No peace despite Qatari-brokered deal

The insurgents are known as Huthis after their late commander Hussein Badr Eddin al-Huthi. He was killed by the army about five years ago.

The Sana'a government and Huthi rebels signed a Qatari-brokered peace deal last June but there has been repeated wrangling about its implementation.

Kidnappings of foreigners are a frequent occurrence in Yemen as tribesmen often use them to twist the government's arm in local disputes. More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years.

According to reports, in all the documented cases, the hostages have been freed unharmed, except for three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants in December 1998. They were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers' hideout.

In April this year, a Dutch couple were held for two weeks by tribesmen to pressure the government to pay compensation for an incident involving a tribal chief and security forces.

The country has also seen a spate of attacks on foreign and government targets, most recently suicide bombings against South Korean tourists claimed by the local branch of Al-Qaeda.

rb/AFP/Reuters
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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