Freed German Hostages Return Home from Captivity | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 02.01.2006
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Freed German Hostages Return Home from Captivity

A former German top diplomat arrived home with his family after a four-day hostage drama at the hands of Yemeni tribesmen, and defended his decision to spend the family vacation in Yemen.

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Jürgen Chrobog and his wife after their release by tribesmen in Yemen

Jürgen Chrobog -- a former ambassador and foreign minister number two -- and his wife and three sons landed at the airport in the western German city of Cologne on board a special flight Sunday evening.

Earlier, as his family headed home, Chrobog said he still had fond feelings for Yemen after a four-day hostage drama.

"Despite everything, I love Yemen," said Chrobog.

The five were released Saturday after security forces backed by army solders laid siege to the kidnappers' hideout in the small village of Al-Saeed and seized four hostage-takers.

Accusations of carelessness

It was the fourth abduction of foreign tourists in Yemen this year. Two Austrians were freed in December after being held for three days.

Chrobog said "he would never put himself or his family at risk during a vacation."

He also rejected the accusations that he and his family were careless about where they wanted to spend their vacations.

"That is absolutely grotesque. I would never go to Iraq or Afghanistan, or look at the prehistoric cities in Columbia," he said.

Tribal dispute

Krisenzentrum Berlin Karte Jemen

A red circle around the location where the Chrobog family was taken hostage

The family was seized by tribesmen who reportedly sought to use them as bargaining chips in a tribal vendetta. They were abducted from a restaurant on the road between the port city of Aden and Shabwa, which lies 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the capital Sanaa.

"We were worried during the first few hours after we were kidnapped. But the kidnappers told us they were not terrorists," Chrobog said, adding that he then felt "reassured."

However, he noted that "during our time in captivity, we saw some children of the tribe were carrying guns when they should have been at school."

"I think that this country's problem is education. Such children should be in schools," he said. "But it seems unfortunately that there are no schools (in their region) and so they have to create tribal zones to resolve their problems."

Presidential reception

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh received the former hostages at the presidential palace prior to their departure, where he wished them a Happy New Year and assured them that their kidnappers would be "punished."

Jürgen Chrobog und Familie sind frei Jemen

Chrobog and his wife leave the Republican Palace in Aden, Yemen

"Kidnappings are unacceptable and against the law," Saleh said, adding that the Germans' kidnapping did not have "political motives" and therefore was not "an act of terrorism."

"It was the work of individuals disowned by their society and their tribe. They will have to account for their actions and they will be punished," Saleh said.

Three Yemeni drivers were also freed along with the family.

Their release followed mediation efforts by a team made up of tribal chiefs and government representatives who negotiated with the hostage-takers.

Tribal chief Sheikh al-Ahmar Ali al-Aswad was said by tribal sources to have been holding the Germans as bargaining chips for the release of the five brothers he said were wrongly imprisoned by Yemeni authorities.

Five Italians Kidnapped

Yet in the wake of the happy ending for the Chrobog family, security officials are reporting that five Italian tourists were kidnapped by tribesman on Sunday in the northern province of Ma'rib.

A local government official said that three women were released shortly after and handed over to the local government in Marib, while the two men remained captive.

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