Last updated: 21 March, 2012

Three Filipino sailors kidnapped in Yemen

Yemeni tribesman have kidnapped three Filipino sailors, demanding that one of their own be freed from jail in exchange for their freedom, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

The sailors were seized on Tuesday in the central province of Marib as they travelled to a port in the far-eastern Mahrah province from which they were to embark on their ship, a statement said.

The kidnappers belong to the Bani Jabr tribe and are demanding the “release of one of their own, who is in prison in Sanaa for a serious criminal offense,” the ministry said.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the sailors, nor on who employs them.

The statement added that the men had been forced to travel overland after a flight from the capital was canceled because of a sand storm.

Security forces have been ordered to “quickly free the hostages and arrest their kidnappers,” the ministry said.

Theirs was the second kidnapping of foreigners in the poor and generally lawless Arabian Peninsula country in the past week.

A Swiss woman teaching at a foreign language institute in the Red Sea port of Hodeïda was seized by gunmen from her home on March 14 and moved to the eastern province of Shabwa, according to the ministry.

On Tuesday, a tribal chief who had offered to mediate her release said she was being held hostage in eastern Yemen and was safe and in good health.

As in the latest case, the ministry said the kidnappers were demanding the release of prisoners.

A local official said those detainees were both Al-Qaeda suspects, and a security official said “the kidnapping bears the hallmark of Al-Qaeda.”

Shabwa is a stronghold of loyalists of the jihadists’ local affiliate Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, whose militants fight under the banner of Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law).

More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years, many of them by members of the country’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities.

Almost all of those kidnapped were later freed unharmed.