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German Kidnapped In Yemen

Armed men kidnapped a German businessman in Yemen and fled despite coming under gunfire by soldiers, security officials and the German Embassy said Thursday.

Five men abducted the German at gunpoint from the diplomatic area in the capital San`a late Wednesday and bundled him into a car before speeding toward the southeast of the city, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

The German was in his car when stopped and forced to ride with the armed men, said the officials.

"We are trying everything to solve the situation, and I'm sure that Yemeni authorities are searching for him," said Horst Dopychai, the embassy's press attache. He refused to give further details.

The German was kidnapped close to a Yemeni military official's house, security officials said. The kidnappers fled despite being shot at by troops guarding the area.

A colleague of the German, speaking on condition of anonymity, would only identify the hostage as Karl, a 55-year-old mechanical engineer employed by the United Engineering and Automobile Company, the sole Yemeni agent for Mercedes vehicles.

A company official said on condition of anonymity that a German mechanical engineer named Karl was absent from work Thursday. He gave no further details.

Authorities have launched a search for the kidnappers, but their whereabouts and demands are not known.

The kidnapping, the second of a German in Yemen this year, came as Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh continued a state visit to Germany. In July, tribesmen kidnapped a German diplomat and held him for nearly two months.

Kidnappings of foreigners are common in Yemen, a poor and often lawless country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Generally, tribesmen from disadvantaged areas take hostages and demand the release of jailed clansmen or other government actions. Most hostages have been treated as guests and released unharmed.

However, four Western tourists were killed in 1998 following a botched rescue attempt by government forces. The victims were among 16 tourists abducted by the militant Aden-Abyan Islamic Army.

Angered by the kidnappings, which have harmed Yemeni tourism and its image abroad, the government in 1999 made abductions punishable by death. Three convicted kidnappers have since been executed.

By Tarek Al-Issawi
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