Political Analysis

Kidnapping phenomenon on the upswing

National Yemen

A United Nations worker who was kidnapped in Sana’a in 2012.

By: Abdul-Aziz Al-Haiajem

The consequence of a failure by authorities to stem the phenomenon, the kidnapping of foreigners is on the rise. The practice, which started in the 1990s, has had a devastating impact on the Yemeni economy. This past Thursday, a security source stated that gunmen from the Bani-Dhabyan tribe have been holding one Austrian and two Finns captive since December 21, 2012.

The security source said, “The two kidnapped Finns were studying Arabic language in Sana’a and the Austrian woman was in Sana’a as a tourist.”

Official statistics have shown that 19 foreigners were kidnapped in 2012, some by tribesmen and others by local Al-Qaeda affiliates. The most prominent kidnapping victims were the Saudi Deputy Consul who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda last March and a Swiss expert who is being held by Al-Qaeda in Shabwa governorate.

Over two decades, more than 350 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen. Most were released following negotiations, the payment of ransoms and other ways in which kidnappers’ demands were met. Kidnappers’ goals originally tended to be concerned with government services and projects but later broadened to include efforts to obtain the release of prison inmates.

Social researcher Mojeeb Abdulwahab as stated that government authorities are fully to blame for the problem because they have continued to meet kidnappers’ demands even after an anti-kidnapping law was passed years ago.

“The phenomenon resulted in the loss of a great deal of investment because investors left Yemen for life,” said Abdulwahab.

Khawlan’s Bani-Dhabyan tribe has come to represent a synonym for ‘kidnapping’; other tribes active in the practice include the Bani-Jabr tribe, Taiman tribes in Marib, and Dhamar governorate’s Al-Hada tribes.

Sheikh Nasser Al-Sharief has stated that his Bani-Dhabyan tribe is very large, yet enjoys nothing of basic services because it used to stand against the ruling regime.

“We are not represented in the different institutions and our citizens are treated in a bad way – hence what we are doing is a reasonable response to the treatment we receive,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qaedi, General Manager of Public Relations at the Interior Ministry, has stated that the ministry has plans to stem future kidnapping attempts. He added that the ministry would offer improved protection to foreigners, whether they’re tourists, diplomats or employees at Yemeni companies and institutions.

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