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Germany

Yemen Kidnappers Deny Demanding Release of Clerics

Kidnappers holding three Germans in Yemen on Friday denied reports claiming that they have demanded the release of two clerics jailed in the United States.

Sana'a

The Germans were kidnapped Sunday about 80 miles from Sana'a, which is seen here

"We never demanded the release of a cleric," Abdu-Rahu Saleh al-Tam, the chief kidnapper told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "Those are baseless reports."

He spoke via a mobile phone from a hideout in Naba'ah, a mountainous area east of the capital, Sana'a, where he and four other tribesmen had been holding the German mother, father and daughter since December 15.

"Our demands are specified from the beginning, and no other demands are added," he said.

The armed men, from the Bani Dhabian tribe in the west of the Arab Peninsula nation, had originally demanded the release of two relatives jailed in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, over a previous kidnapping of five local engineers last year.

The chief tribesman had also insisted authorities pay him 40 million riyals ($200,000) in compensation for a property in Sana'a, the ownership of which he disputed with an influential businessman.

Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Moayad

The tribesman have called for the release by the US of Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Moayad

The two detained Yemenis, who the kidnappers reportedly wanted released, hail from the same tribe as the kidnappers and were charged with giving financial support to Al-Qaeda and the Palestinian group Hamas.

They were arrested in Germany in 2003 and extradited to the United States where they were both initially dealt hefty prison terms. Those charges were later overturned at an appeals court, however, though the two men are still in US custody.

Talks continue

Talks aimed at freeing the German hostages continued Thursday as the government added a new member to the negotiating team working to free the employee of the German Technical Cooperation agency (GTZ) and her parents.

The family was kidnapped Sunday, Dec. 15, while driving near the city of Rada'a, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Sana'a.

"We met representatives of the government today, and discussed our demands with them," one of the abductors told German news agency dpa.

He was speaking from Naba'ah, a remote mountainous area in Khawlan district some 60 kilometers south-east of Sana'a, where the hostages are being held.

A map of Yemen

The hostages are being held some 60 kilometers from Sana'a city, Yemen

"We insisted to them that our demands should be met before the release of the hostages," the tribesman said.

"Until that happens, the Germans are our guests, and we intend no harm to them," he added.

New negotiator

The tribesman, who communicated using a mobile phone, said authorities had added a leading tribal dignitary to its team of negotiators. He gave no further details.

Yemeni police said the five Bani Dhabian tribesmen were being led by Abdu-Rabu Saleh al-Tam.

Police arrested dozens of tribesmen from the Bani Dhabian tribe late Monday to put pressure on the kidnappers to free the hostages.

Yemeni tribes have kidnapped over 200 foreigners since 1993 and used them to press the central government for concessions.

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