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Germany sees its hostages in Yemen freed soon
Updated: 2005-12-30 09:45

German and Yemeni authorities hope to soon secure the release of a former German government minister, his wife and three children, kidnapped by tribesmen in the eastern part of the country, officials said on Thursday.

"I am certain that there will be a resolution before the end of the year," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.

He was referring to the kidnapping of Juergen Chrobog and family, who were there as tourists, having been invited by Yemen's deputy foreign minister. They have been in the hands of Yemeni tribesman since Wednesday morning, Steinmeier said.

"I'm certain that the government of Yemen will do everything possible to bring about a resolution to this kidnapping situation, a resolution that results in the safe release of the Chrobog family as soon as possible," he said.

The Yemeni authorities said they were negotiating with the tribesman holding the Germans.

"We have formed a committee of tribal leaders and government officials to negotiate with the kidnappers. No force will be used to free them," Ali al-Rassas, governor of Shabwa province, said.

"They will be freed safely and soon," another official told Reuters, giving no further details.

Yemeni officials say the family was seized by members of the al-Abdullah tribe during a trip to Shabwa from the port city of Aden. The kidnappers are trying to force the Yemen government to free five tribesmen jailed on criminal charges including murder.

The captors said the Germans were in good health. "We are still talking with authorities. The hostages are in an excellent state," one of them told Reuters by telephone.

One of the kidnappers, however, told Reuters on Wednesday that the lives of the family would be at risk if the government used force to free them.

Armed tribal groups in Yemen, a poor country at the tip of the Arabian peninsula where central government control is often weak, seize tourists frequently, but they are usually freed unharmed after negotiations. The al-Abdullah tribe is not known to have been involved in previous kidnappings.

Last week, Yemeni tribesmen seized two Austrians. A month ago, another group captured two Swiss tourists. Both kidnappings were aimed at pressuring the government to free jailed relatives and all tourists were released unharmed after the government said it would look into the captors' demands.

Chrobog, 65, was Germany's ambassador to the United States from 1995 to 2001. In 2003, he was the top diplomat dealing with Europeans abducted in the Sahara desert and was able to secure the release of 14 hostages, including nine Germans.

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