Japanese engineer kidnapped in Yemen by armed tribesmen, abductors put forward demands

By By Ahmed Al-haj, AP
Monday, November 16, 2009

Japanese engineer kidnapped by Yemen tribesmen

SAN’A, Yemen — Armed tribesmen have kidnapped a Japanese engineer working in Yemen and demanded the government release one of their imprisoned tribe members, the Japanese Embassy and a Yemeni security official said Monday.

Kohei Akiyama, the Embassy’s first secretary, did not release the name of the kidnapped man or the private company he works for in Yemen. He said Monday evening that the kidnapping took place more than a day earlier.

“Local tribesmen kidnapped the Japanese guy,” Akiyama told The Associated Press by telephone from the capital San’a. “The Japanese Embassy has contacted the Yemeni authorities, who are carrying out some negotiations” with the kidnappers.

A Yemeni security official said the engineer was working on the construction of a school in an area about 12 miles (20 kilometers) northeast of San’a.

The official said clan members in the area want to exchange him for a jailed fellow tribesman. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Most kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are by disgruntled tribesmen hoping to wrangle concessions from the government — including ransoms, the release of jailed relatives or even promises to build local infrastructure.

But they usually treat their hostages well and released them unharmed.

The impoverished country in the south of the Arabian Peninsula has a weak central government and powerful tribes, as well as elements of al-Qaida lurking in the hinterlands.

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