Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yemen: Update--Kidnapped Dutch Couple Still Missing

According to CNN, a Dutch couple kidnapped in the Yemeni capital [Hadda] on June 15 are still missing. 

The couple, comprised of Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her husband, Boudewijn Berendsen, were abducted as they left their home. Strangely, they were missing nearly a week before Yemeni authorities were aware of their abduction who in turn notified the Dutch Embassy.

A tribal leader involved in the mediation process told CNN that the health situation of the Dutch couple was stable although the couple is understandably depressed by their plight. 

COMMENT: The kidnappers, not yet identified, have asked for a ransom payment, but have been elusive as to the exact amount.

Interior Ministry records reveal that some 35 kidnappings have taken been reported of late, although most victims have been released, apart from those still being held.

Al-Qaeda and/or its franchisees are believed to be behind many of the abductions, including that of a South African couple in May. A Finnish couple and an Austrian who were seized by tribesmen last December [2012] were released five months later following tribal mediation involving on the part of the Omani government. 

The Yemeni Journalist Syndicate (YJS) has condemned the kidnapping, saying that local groups are using abductions as a bargaining chip against the government.

One of the longest-standing kidnap victims in Yemen is Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Khalidi, who has been held hostage in Yemen since March 2012, when he was seized outside of his home in Aden. It is believed that the vice-consul was kidnapped in order to be exchanged for al-Qaeda elements held by the Saudis.

Increasingly, many kidnap victims in Yemen have been seized near or adjacent to their homes, a natural "choke-point," and a place they can always be expected to be. 

Thus, it is essential that all foreigners be particularly cautious when selecting a residence so that activity in and around their residence can be carefully observed, as well as identifying suspicious vehicles or persons in the vicinity, to include copying vehicular tag registration numbers down and reporting them to their respective embassy for investigative purposes.

Additionally, it is essential that foreigners take exceptional care in ensuring they do NOT leave their residence at the same departure and arrival times, so as to frustrate would be kidnappers who depend on predictable patterns of behavior in order for an abduction to be successful.