Shabwa is a stronghold of loyalists of the jihadists' local affiliate Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
Suspected Al-Qaeda militants have kidnapped a Swiss woman and are holding her in the southeastern province of Shabwa. © AFP Graphic - AFP Graphic
Shabwa is a stronghold of loyalists of the jihadists' local affiliate Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
AFP
Last updated: March 16, 2012

Al-Qaeda suspects kidnap Swiss woman in Yemen

Suspected Al-Qaeda militants have kidnapped a Swiss woman and are holding her in the southeastern province of Shabwa, a provincial chief and a security official told AFP on Friday.

"A Swiss woman was abducted in Hodeida (on the Red Sea coast) by armed men who moved her to Shabwa province," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"According to our information, Al-Qaeda is responsible for the abduction," he added.

According to the official, the kidnappers are "demanding the release of two Al-Qaeda militants detained in Hodeida." He gave no further details.

A security official also blamed Al-Qaeda for the abduction.

"The kidnapping bears the hallmark of Al-Qaeda," he told AFP.

According to him, only a well-organised group such as Al-Qaeda could have undertaken such an operation, which involved abducting the woman in Hodeida and then moving her across three provinces to Shabwa.

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

The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that a Swiss national had been abducted in Yemen, in a statement released on Friday.

The identity of the victim was not revealed, but the Swiss foreign ministry said it was informed of the abduction late on Wednesday and immediately made contact with the competent authorities in Yemen.

Last year, Switzerland urged its citizens in Yemen to leave the country.

In May, the Islamist militants took control of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province which neighbours Shabwa, as well as several other southern towns, triggering months of deadly fighting with government forces.

A tribal source told AFP on Friday the woman was being held in a mountainous area of Shabwa adjoining Bayda province.

"Contacts are under way in an attempt to secure the woman's release," he added without detailing the nature of the contacts.

The tribal source named the two Al-Qaeda militants detained in Hodeida as Ahmed Mohammed Morjan and Faez Mohammed Aliwa.

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

Almost all of those kidnapped were later freed unharmed.

On February 1 four aid workers -- a Colombian, a German, a Palestinian and an Iraqi -- were freed a day after being abducted by armed men northeast of the capital Sanaa. The Palestinian and Iraqi were women.

A Norwegian UN employee, who was abducted by tribesmen in Sanaa on January 14, was released unharmed almost 10 days later.

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