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Gunmen kidnap South African people in Yemen, security says

Published: Updated:

Gunmen kidnapped a South African couple from the central Yemeni city of Taiz on Monday over a land dispute between a local chief and the authorities, security officials said.

The pair of tourists were seized while they were outside a hotel in the eastern part of the city, said one security official who requested anonymity.

The kidnappers came from the area of Janadiyah, some 35 kilometers (about 20 miles) east of Taiz, said another official.

They belonged to a local chief who has had a long-running dispute with the authorities over a plot of land, he said, adding the tourists could be used for bargaining.

Several other security sources confirmed the abducted couple were South Africans.

Although kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are frequent, Taiz – one of the country’s biggest cities – has not been the scene of hostage-taking.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of whom have been freed unharmed.

Most kidnappings of foreigners are carried out by members of Yemen’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.

Earlier this month, tribesmen in south Yemen freed three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross, including a Swiss citizen and a Kenyan along with two Egyptian hostages.

The men were held for few days and were released following tribal mediation.