Nine foreigners kidnapped and killed in northern Yemen
At least seven foreign hostages seized in Yemen, have been found dead, officials say. They are thought to be from a group of nine foreigners, three of them children, who were kidnapped last week in the northern Sa’ada region.
Yemen’s Interior Ministry earlier said the foreigners were kidnapped while on a picnic in the area. The authorities said the group included a German doctor, his wife and three children, and also a male British engineer and a female South Korean teacher.
The kidnapped adults all worked at a hospital in Sa’ada, the state news agency said.
14 June 2009
Analysis and forecast (↑ increasing risk)
The recent kidnapping and killing of hostages is by far the most serious anti-foreigner action in Yemen in recent months. There have been many kidnappings in the past, but most of those ended with the release of the hostages after demands of tribal kidnappers were either met or negotiated with the government. However, this incident is different as the intention of the kidnappers was to kill the hostages, rather than demand government concessions.
The Sa’ada region is home to the Shiite Houthi rebels who have fought five civil wars in the past several years with the government. Tensions have been rising in the region amid talk of the possibility of renewed hostilities, perhaps a sixth Sa’ada war between the government and the Houthi fighters. In addition to the Houthis, the region has been used as a base for Al Qaeda fighters who have been reportedly setting up training camps in the area. The location makes an ideal crossing point for Al Qaeda fighters and supplies to cross between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, which shares a porous mountainous border with the Sa’ada region.
Although the government has accused the Houthi rebels of being behind the kidnapping and killing of the hostages, it is more likely that Al Qaeda fighters are in fact behind the incident. Besides the denial of the Houthis about their involvement in the incident, the manner in which the hostages were taken and later killed is reminiscent of Al Qaeda actions. This indicates that Al Qaeda is now prepared to attack foreigners in Yemen, with potential security implications for foreign workers in the oil industry as well as tourists.