Yemen won't yield to demands of Dutch couple's hostage-takers

Yemen won't yield to demands of Dutch couple's hostage-takers Sana'a, Yemen  - Yemeni authorities have no intention of yielding to demands made by tribesmen holding a Dutch couple hostage east of the capital Sana'a since last week, the government spokesman on Tuesday.

"The government firmly rejects yielding to any conditions or dictations," Hassan al-Lawzi, the information minister and government spokesman, told reporters after the Cabinet weekly meeting.

"What is sought is the handover of the hostages unhurt," al-Lawzi said.

He said authorities "will not meet any of the demands that the kidnappers have made, and they must be brought before justice."

Al-Lawzi said the kidnapped Dutchman Jan Hogendoorn, 54, and his wife Heleen Janszen, 49, were "in good condition" and that their safety was the government's main concern.

Hogendoorn, an expert at a water project funded by the Dutch government in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, and his wife were taken captive by six armed tribesmen as they were driving in a southern Sana'a suburb on March 31.

The kidnappers, members of the al-Siraj clan, took the couple at gunpoint to the mountainous district of Bani-Dhabian, some 80 kilometres east of Sana'a.

They said they abducted the Dutch couple to put pressure on the authorities to hold accountable two provincial police chiefs in the neighbouring province of Marib, allegedly for ordering an attack on members of the al-Siraj clan at a police checkpoint in April 2008.

They also demanded financial compensation for injuries that four of their follow clansmen suffered during the checkpoint gunfight.

A senior local official began on Sunday a new round of negotiations with the abductors after mediation led by tribal leaders foundered after the kidnappers insisted on their demands.

The Interior Ministry has said six tribesmen from Bani-Dhabian linked to the kidnapping of the couple were arrested.

The kidnapped Dutch couple appealed to the Yemeni government last week to explore all peaceful means to secure their release, while also saying the abductors were treating them well.

Disgruntled tribesmen from impoverished areas of Yemen often take hostages to use as bargaining chips to press the government for aid, jobs or the release of detained fellow clansmen.

The kidnapping is the third involving foreigners in Yemen this year.

On January 18, tribesmen abducted a German oil expert in the south-eastern Yemeni province of Shabwa and released him two days later. The kidnappers demanded the release of a jailed fellow tribesman.

On January 3, tribesmen seeking the release of a jailed fellow clansman took a South African tourist and her two sons hostage for one day in the southern province of Abyan, but later released them unharmed.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen since 1991. Almost all were released unharmed after mediation involving tribal leaders. (dpa)

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