American who made Yemen home abducted in Houthi-held Sanaa

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Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a 63-year-old American, who has lived in Yemen for more than two decades, in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa over the weekend, his family said on Tuesday.

Texas native Danny Burch was seized as he was walking back to his home in Sanaa after dropping off his children at a swimming pool, his family said.

A number of Westerners have been detained by the Houthis since they overran the capital three years ago but nearly all have been released following mediation by neighboring Oman.

Foreigners have also been abducted by the country’s heavily armed tribes for use as bargaining chips in local disputes and there have been some kidnappings by al-Qaeda.

Burch’s wife Nadia Forsa al-Harazi urged the Houthi militants to secure the release of her husband, in a telephone call with AFP.

She said her husband had lived in the capital for more than 20 years, making it his home. The couple has three children, the eldest 12.

The couple’s niece, Rasha al-Harazi, told AFP that Burch had been working for the oil company Safer in Marib, a mainly government-held province east of the capital.

He had returned to work there three months ago, when controls on travel between Houthi- and government-held areas eased for the first time in three years.

Burch would come home to the capital “every now and then” to see his wife and children, Harazi told AFP.
The family learnt of his kidnapping through friends and contacts in Sanaa but could not be sure who the kidnappers were.

A State Department official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said: “We are aware of reports of a US citizen missing in Yemen,” adding: “We have no further information to offer at this time”.