Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Yemen’s smuggling and kidnapping sagas

The UN examines smuggled arms as EU members negotiate the release of Western hostages, reports Nasser Arrabyee

Al-Ahram Weekly

Two delegations from Finland and Austria have secretly arrived in the Yemeni capital Sanaa for negotiations over releasing a Finnish couple and Austrian man who were kidnapped by angry tribesmen last December from the middle of Sanaa and sold to Al-Qaeda later in the same month.

European sources told Al-Ahram Weekly Tuesday that the Finnish have agreed to pay a ransom while the Austrians were reluctant to pay.

The sources said that Americans and some Europeans like the British refuse completely to pay any money to Al-Qaeda. So, they push the Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to implement an operation like that which was implemented in Algeria last month in which a lot of hostages and kidnappers were killed.

“The Americans do not want to give any money to Al-Qaeda, and they are right, but the Finnish want their citizens to be released unharmed,” said the European source.

The big issue now is how much is the ransom. Al-Qaeda asked for four million Euros. The Finnish and Austrian delegations (government and civil society representatives) came ready with the money, the source said.

However, a tribal leader from Radaa, involved in mediation efforts, told the Weekly that Al-Qaeda wanted the money they had paid for the kidnappers and they want more as ransom too.

Al-Qaeda claimed they paid 30 million Yemeni Riyals which is about $150,000. “Al-Qaeda asked for $5 million at the beginning, and a lot of efforts were exerted to make it $1 million, and I think with more push on Al-Qaeda they would accept $500,000 which is about three times more than they paid,” said the tribal leader who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The Finnish man and woman and Austrian man were studying Arabic language in the old city of Sanaa before they were kidnapped earlier last December.

About 70 Al-Qaeda operatives and more than 30 soldiers were killed in the battles between the Yemeni army and Al-Qaeda over the last couple of weeks in Al-Manaseh area, stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Radaa, about 200 south east of the capital, where the three hostages are believed to be.

Earlier Tuesday, three soldiers were killed and four others injured when Al-Qaeda set an ambush for troops who were trying to advance towards the stronghold of Al-Manaseh.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government, which is in a fragile transitional period, is now facing an increasingly acute crisis with Iran especially now after the American navy and Yemeni coast guards seized a ship loaded with arms and explosives allegedly coming from Iran. The weapons cargo crisis came months after Yemeni President Hadi accused Iran of interfering in Yemen’s internal affairs and of having spy networks working in the conflict-torn country.

Iran always denies such allegations and asks for hard evidence for these activities.

The conflicting parties in Yemen exchange the accusations about who the importers of these arms are.

The Sunni Islamists (Yemen Muslim Brotherhood) say the arms cargo was to Al-Houthi Shia, and they, in turn, say it was for the southern separatists and Al-Qaeda. Al-Houthi and their allies point to the Turkish weapons shipments seized in Yemen recently. They ask for whom were all those Turkish weapons?

The Iranian Deputy Ambassador to Sanaa Murtada Abed denied that the ship came from Iran asking the Yemeni government to present any evidence if they have any through diplomatic channels.

The investigations revealed that there were eight sailors and all of them were Yemenis. Their names were published and they were from Hajja and Taiz provinces. The weapons included machine guns, RPGs, Sam2 and Sam3 land to air missiles night visions, and explosives.

The ship passed along the Omani coast, and the Yemeni coast guards intercepted it in late January in cooperation with “friends” according to the official media. The weapons were hidden in four rooms under a basin of oil, and the ship had the flag of Panama.

A delegation from the UN Security Council arrived in Sanaa earlier this week to study this controversial shipment. The ship had a permit for transporting oil.

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