Last updated: 24 October, 2011

Yemen tribesmen kidnap Russian doctor

Tribesmen in Yemen’s east kidnapped a Russian doctor on Monday to pressure authorities to release detainees belonging to their tribe, the head of a hospital the captive works for told AFP.

“The Russian doctor Wahid Rof who works for us was kidnapped by Al-Awamra tribe in an area between Shabwa and Marib” provinces, said Riad Salem, head of Al-Shifa hospital in Shabwa.

Salem said that “armed tribesmen intercepted a taxi carrying Wahid as he was heading to Sanaa, forced him to leave the car and took him to an unknown location.”

“We are now contacting Al-Awamra tribe since the doctor works for us,” after Yemeni authorities failed to respond when informed of the kidnap, said Salem.

In March tribesmen in southern Yemen kidnapped a Russian doctor who was also working in a hospital in the Shabwa town of Ataq.

At the time his employer said that the doctor was kidnapped in retaliation for an air strike by the Yemeni air force on a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp two years ago, a spokesman for the group said.

They were holding the doctor “to force the authorities to hold accountable those who carried out the raid on Al-Majaala,” Mohammad Salman, manager of the hospital in Ataq, had said.

Yemeni forces carried out a deadly air strike on a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp in the village of Al-Majaala, in Abyan province, in December 2009.

The air raid killed 23 children and 17 women, a local official and tribal sources said at the time. The government said it targeted a suspected Al-Qaeda training camp killing around 30 militants, some of them foreigners.

Last year, a Yemeni tribesman with a grievance against the central government briefly abducted an Uzbek doctor believing he was a Russian before freeing his hostage when he realised he was a Muslim.

The abductor had told AFP by telephone that he wanted to swap the Uzbek for his jailed nephew who, he said, was being held in prison in Sanaa for stealing a government official car.

Yemeni tribes habitually kidnap foreigners to try to put pressure on the authorities. More than 200 foreigners have been seized during the past 15 years, with most being freed unharmed.

But five Germans and a Briton who were taken captive in June 2009 in the north of the country are still missing with no word on their fate.

They were among nine people seized in the northern Saada region, the stronghold of Shiite rebels led by Abdel Malek al-Huthi.

The three others in the group — two Germans and a South Korean — were killed.