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South Yemen militants free five captives

The freed captives, including a government, were kidnapped hours before negotiated release

AFP , Thursday 23 Dec 2010
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Southern militants have set free five people, including a Yemeni government official, hours after they had kidnapped them in the restive town of Habilayn, an official said on Thursday.

The men who were taken captive on Wednesday were released as a result of mediation by tribal chiefs, the local official said. The northern men were kidnapped in two separate operations.

Gunmen from the Southern Movement, which spearheads opposition to the Sanaa government, kidnapped three of them at a checkpoint they set up in Habilayn, in Lahij province, an official said on Wednesday.

Two others, including an employee in the prime minister's office in Sanaa identified as Taher al-Maliki, were taken hostage by another group of armed men.

A communiqué signed by the so-called Brigades of Arab South Freemen and distributed in Habilayn threatened to escalate kidnappings in retaliation to the arrests of southern militants.

On Sunday, gunmen from the Southern Movement abducted an army officer in a bid to secure the release of the group's supporters held by Sanaa and five soldiers seized last week were freed on Saturday.

Yemeni authorities earlier this week released 30 of the group's militants it had imprisoned, including a local leader, Hussein al-Aqel, a security official and a source from the Southern Movement said.

The kidnappings of civilians and soldiers have increased in the south, especially in Habilayn where southern militants have blocked the road linking the southern port city of Aden to Sanaa, according to officials.

The Southern Movement brings together groups with demands ranging from social and political equality with north Yemen to the total secession of southern provinces.


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