Yemen Kidnapping Hostages Released; Both Westerners Work for UN

Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 01:27 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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Two Westerners working for the UN were freed by Yemeni security officials Tuesday after being abducted by men with guns in the capital Saana.

According to Reuters, kidnapping is "common" in Yemen, and "the government is struggling to contain an insurgency from Islamists linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement, fighting in the country's north and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes."

Those kidnapped were an Italian man and one other person later identified as a Yemeni-Italian woman, CNN reports. They were abducted during the evening in the Hadda district – considered one of safest – and taken to a house.

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Yemeni police surrounded the house, and freed the hostages via negotiation. Local residents also reported sounds of gunfire when the police arrived.

A senior member of the Internal Ministry released a statement after the incident that said, "The kidnappers were detained by the authorities."

In addition, "Local council officials in Sanaa have also been asked to inform residents in their areas and keep watch within Sanaa neighborhoods in case the kidnappers choose to hide within Sanaa."

The incident comes after a slew of kidnappings in February, including that of a Czech doctor, a German, a British oil worker and a British teacher.

Most kidnapping victims are released just hours after being taken, as local militants and tribes often aren't trying to intimidate Westerners or sell the victims, but rather use them to get the attention of the government and resolve other disputes.

Many al Qaeda cells operate out of Yemen, and they still have in their custody a kidnapped South African teacher in addition to an Iranian embassy staffer, both abducted last year.

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