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2 Japanese tourists kidnapped in Yemen: security official

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May 07, 2008

SAN'A, Yemen — Two Japanese tourists were kidnapped Wednesday by unknown assailants in Yemen's Marib province, a security official and a tribal leader said.

The two women were visiting a historic dam in the town of Marib, about 100 miles east of the country's capital of San'a, when they were seized by armed men. Both the Yemeni security official and the tribal leader spoke on condition of anonymity, the official because he was not authorized to talk to the media and the tribal leader because of the sensitivity of the kidnapping.

The kidnappers shot at Yemeni soldiers accompanying the tourists, wounding one of the soldiers, then seized the women and sped away in a car, according to the official.

The two women were somewhat separated from the tourist group they were with at the dam, the official added.

Yemeni tribes have in the past taken several foreigners — either tourists or foreigners residing or working in the country — as hostages, to pressure the government with demands from freeing clan members to improving roads, hospitals and schools in their area. In most cases the kidnappings were resolved and the hostages freed.

It was not clear if the kidnappers Wednesday were also tribesmen.

Yemen is the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula. It is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, but it also is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden's family and al-Qaida loyalists are active in the country.

Last month, a bombing at a military checkpoint near the site of the kidnapping killed three Yemeni soldiers and injured four.

In January, suspected al-Qaida militants opened fire on a convoy of tourists in a remote desert mountain valley in northern Yemen, killing two Belgian women and their Yemeni driver.

In July 2007, a suicide bomber in an explosives-packed car attacked tourists visiting a temple in central Yemen, killing eight Spaniards and two Yemenis. Yemeni authorities also blamed that attack on an al-Qaida cell.

2 Japanese tourists kidnapped in Yemen: security official

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