Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 09:53 UK

Dutch couple kidnapped in Yemen

Map: Yemen

A Dutch couple living in Yemen have been taken hostage by tribesmen seeking compensation from the Yemeni government over a shooting, officials have said.

The two were seized by armed men while driving in the capital, Sanaa, on Tuesday and taken to a mountainous region 55 miles (90km) to the east.

They told the Associated Press by telephone they were being well treated.

The kidnappers wanted compensation for the wounding of six tribesmen by police in an incident in 2008, officials said.

Later, the leader of the al-Siraj tribe claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

"We talked to the mayor and the government and everyone important," Sheikh Nasser al-Siraj told AP.

"But no-one listens. So this way we will put pressure on our government and finally get justice."

'Classical kidnapping'

The Yemeni government said local officials had been in contact with the hostages and that it hoped the dispute with the kidnappers would be sorted soon.

Nevertheless, security forces have surrounded the area where they are being held - Bani Dhibyan, a remote part of the al-Siraj mountains.

Yemen has a history of kidnappings by tribesmen; in most cases those taken are released unharmed soon after. The hostages are commonly used as bargaining chips in disputes with the government.

The last Western tourist to be kidnapped in Yemen was a German engineer who was seized in January and released a few days later.

The woman Dutch hostage, whose husband reportedly works for a water company in Taiz, told AP by telephone on Tuesday that they had so far been treated well.

"It was a very classical kidnapping situation," she said. "We were offered lunch and tea, and were allowed to take a walk and take pictures."

"It's such an adventure - that's the only way to cope with it," she added, predicting that they would be freed in a day.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed that two of its citizens had been kidnapped, but would not release any further information.

Correspondents say this latest kidnap is likely to further damage Yemen's nascent tourism sector and add to the security concerns of foreign firms developing its oil and gas sector.

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