Political Analysis

Kidnapping in Yemen: A Primer

National Yemen

The abducted Dutch journalist coupled in Yemen

By NY Staff

Recently, kidnappings have been plaguing Yemen with unsettling frequency.  This rising phenomenon has become a serious concern for government security authorities, who are accused of failing to devote sufficient resources to this issue.

Al-Qaeda and armed tribes are the groups most frequently accused of conducting kidnappings, a means they adopt in order to pressure the government to meet their demands. These demands are often financial, functional, or related to the release of prisoners, though kidnappings are occasionally driven by political motives as well.

The last known kidnapping in Yemen took place last Thursday, when armed tribes captured two soldiers on their way to camp in the Dali province of south Yemen. Local sources say that, the goal of the kidnappers is to force government authorities to release a fellow tribe member currently imprisoned in Aden on a criminal charge.

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped an Iranian diplomat two weeks ago near the headquarters of the Iranian embassy in the center of Sana’a city. He was then taken to a location south of the city. The reason behind his kidnapping is still ambiguous. Teheran has condemned the kidnapping of its employee and demanded the Yemeni government to do their utmost to secure his release.

The most famous kidnapping case in Yemen was that of Saudi diplomat Abdullah Al-Khalidi, vice-consul in Aden, who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda gunmen on 28 March 2012. He is still being held up till today, despite demands from Al-Khalidi to Saudi authorities to respond to all the demands of his captors.

The most prominent kidnapping in Yemen, especially of late, is that of Radio Netherlands correspondent Dutch journalist Joodeeth Shbahal, who was kidnapped with her husband Bodwayn Prendsn in the beginning of June by unidentified gunmen in Sana’a city.
Recently the kidnappers leaked a video through the Dutch journalist’s cell phone in which she demand her government respond to her captors’ requests. According to the video, the kidnappers threatened her with death in a matter of days if the government did not respond to their demands. This is the very meaning of “ransom.”

The Freedom Foundation for Rights, managing director Khaled al-Hammadi said in a speech to Al Jazeera Net, the kidnapping of the Dutch journalist and her husband is completely political issue. He believes that a prominent figure of a Yemeni political party may be behind the current kidnappings of foreigners, including Shbahal.

Al-Hammadi further shared his opinion Shbahal and her husband are in a very difficult situation, which may be growing more dangerous as time progresses. However, the danger isn’t as it seems to be in the video of two weeks ago, because kidnappings in Yemen previously have not ended in killings. “Kidnappers do not have any interest in it.”

Al-Hammadi describes this trend to the weakness of government authorities, which in turn has strengthened tribal and armed groups. These are the same reasons behind the government’s inability to release Shbahal and her husband.

Academic researcher Saeed Abdul Momen expressed his wondered about the emergence of the kidnapping foreigners phenomenon in Sana’a that happen from time to time, in particular its continuation even as security forces spread throughout the city and road barriers are erected on streets and at city exits.

Saeed said, the kidnapping is very harmful to Yemen and Sana’a city’s reputations. There should be no manifestations of violence or armed assaults in either Yemen or its capital. Both should be very safe, especially for foreigners.

Abdul Momen thinks that the kidnapping phenomenon isn’t a result of political conflict. He points out that Shipping and Packing might push some forces to human abduction in order to prove the government’s failure to provide adequate security in the country. Other groups might be moved by financial goals.

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