Yemeni tribesmen patrol a street in Taiz on June 8, 2011
Yemeni tribesmen patrol a street in Taiz in 2011. South African diplomats were Wednesday heading to Yemen to try to secure the release of a couple kidnapped this week in the central city of Taiz, the foreign affairs ministry said. © Mohammed Huwais - AFP/File
Yemeni tribesmen patrol a street in Taiz on June 8, 2011
AFP
Last updated: May 29, 2013

South African diplomats go to Yemen over kidnapped couple

South African diplomats were Wednesday heading to Yemen to try to secure the release of a couple kidnapped this week in the central city of Taiz, the foreign affairs ministry said.

"Yes they (the couple) are South Africans and our officials from the neighbouring country of Saudi Arabia are travelling to Yemen to see how we can help secure their release," ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told AFP.

South Africa's embassy in Saudi Arabia is accredited to Yemen.

The couple, initially thought to be tourists, were involved in the development of a hotel in the city of Taiz, said Monyela.

Gunmen kidnapped the pair on Monday over a land dispute between a local chief and the authorities, according to Yemeni security officials.

One security source said they were seized while they were outside a hotel in the eastern part of the city.

The kidnappers came from the area of Janadiyah, some 35 kilometres (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 couple could be used for bargaining.

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.

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