Tribesmen kidnap two US tourists

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The Independent Online

Armed Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped two US tourists, a husband and wife, near the Yemeni capital Sana'a yesterday and were demanding the release of a jailed relative, Yemeni security officials said.

The couple's Yemeni driver and a translator were also taken hostage, the officials said. The kidnappers were seeking government intervention to free a family member in jail over a land dispute that was before the courts, a tribal source said.

"Armed tribesmen ambushed a car carrying tourists and their Yemeni driver and took them to their area," one security official said. Another official said the kidnapping was not thought to have a political motive.

A Yemeni official said authorities had made contact with the kidnappers and a team of negotiators was heading to the mountainous area where the Americans were being held.

Yemen surged to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al-Qa'ida claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a US-bound plane in December. Kidnappings are common in the country, where hostages are often used to press demands on the authorities. The authorities have detained dozens of members of the tribe, a security official said. "The purpose is to mount pressure on the kidnappers while negotiations go on," he told Reuters.