AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Thursday 30 May 2013
Last update 30 May 2013 3:41 am
JOHANNESBURG: South African diplomats were heading to Yemen yesterday to try to secure the release of a couple kidnapped this week in the central city of Taiz, Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
“Yes the couple is from South Africa and our officials are traveling to Yemen to see how we can help secure their release,” ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told AFP.
The couple, initially thought to be tourists, were involved in the development of a hotel in the city of Taiz, said Monyela.
Gunmen kidnapped the pair on Monday over a land dispute between a local chief and the authorities, according to Yemeni security officials.
One security source said they were seized while they were outside a hotel in the eastern part of the city.
The kidnappers came from the area of Janadiyah, some 35 kilometers (about 20 miles) east of Taiz, said another official.
They belonged to a local chief who has had a long-running dispute with the authorities over a plot of land, he said, adding the couple could be used for bargaining.
Although kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are frequent, Taiz — one of the country’s biggest cities — has not been the scene of hostage-taking.
Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of whom have been freed unharmed.
Most kidnappings of foreigners are carried out by members of Yemen’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.