Yemen: Kidnapped tourists not yet identified

It is believed two South Africans were kidnapped outside their hotel in broad daylight.

The southern city of Ta'izz in Yemen. Picture: AFP

YEMEN - It is yet to be determined whether a man and woman who were kidnapped by gunmen in Yemen are South Africans or not.

The tourists were abducted in broad daylight outside a hotel in the southern Yemeni city of Ta'izz.

It is being reported that they have been in the area for at least the past three days.

Most kidnappings of foreigners are carried out by members of Yemen's powerful tribes who use foreigners as bargaining chips to settle disputes with government.

South African International Relations Department's Nelson Kgwete said they have not yet received confirmation if the pair are South African.

"Officials in South Africa's mission in Saudi Arabia, which is accredited to Yemen, are following up on reports. We cannot confirm whether or not they are South African."

Monday's kidnapping was the latest attack targeting foreigners in the impoverished Arab state, where the government is struggling to restore law and order since a power transfer deal in late 2011.

The deal saw former President Ali Abdullah Saleh hand over power to his deputy following months of pro-democracy protests.

An Interior Ministry source added that the kidnappers had apparently mistaken the South African pair for Europeans or Americans but gave no further details on what they were doing in Yemen.

Kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen is common, often carried out by disgruntled tribesmen seeking to press the government to free jailed relatives or to improve public services, or by Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Earlier this month, tribesmen kidnapped three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Swiss, Kenyan and Yemen nationals were abducted in the southern province of Abyan, but were freed three days later.

Yemen has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency, a separatist movement in the southern part of the country and a spate of attacks by gunmen on power stations, electric grids and oil pipelines since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was elected for a two-year interim period in 2013 after Saleh stepped down.

Lawlessness in the poor Arabian Peninsula state has alarmed neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil exporter, as well as the United States, which increasingly views Yemen as a frontline in its struggle against al-Qaeda.


At the same time, three of the 12 employees of a South African bomb disposal company were released by rebels in Senegal.

Negations are on-going to secure the release of the others.