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Foreign tourists 'taken in Yemen'  Mar 31, 2009

Armed tribesman have abducted a couple, believed to be Dutch, in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, security sources say.

They pair are now in a mountainous area 70km (40 miles) east of the city, its governor, Sanaa Noaman al-Dowaid, said.

"The security authorities have taken all urgent measures to safeguard the lives of the tourists and secure their release," the governor said.

The tribesmen are demanding the release of two of their relatives being held by the government, Yemeni sources said.

Bargaining chips

Yemen has a history of kidnapping by tribesmen, in most cases those taken are released unharmed soon after.

The hostages are commonly used as bargaining chips in disputes with the government.

The last Western tourist to be kidnapped in Yemen, the poorest of the Gulf states, was a German engineer who was seized in January and released a few day later.

Yemen is a mainly Sunni Muslim country that faces unrest on several fronts: a Shia uprising in the north, disaffection from southerners who lost a civil war in the 1990s, and occasional attacks blamed on al-Qaeda militants.

This latest kidnap is likely to further damage Yemen's nascent tourism sector, correspondents say, and add to the security concerns of foreign firms developing its oil and gas sector.

Foreign tourists 'taken in Yemen'
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