yemen flag 88.
(photo credit: )
The four French tourists kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen have been freed, the Yemeni official news agency reported Monday.
The Frenchmen landed at a military base in San`a and were met by Yemeni Interior Minister Rashad al-Aleem.
The four men, captured more than two weeks ago in Shabwa province, southeast of the capital San'a, were transported by military helicopter to the base, where French diplomats were at hand to receive them.
Awad Ibnawazeer, a lawmaker mediating to secure the hostages' freedom, told The Associated Press earlier they had been released into his care.
"After hard and tiring negotiations throughout the night, an agreement was reached to free the hostages," Ibnawazeer said.
Almulla Zabara, a leader in the Al-Abdullah tribe that seized the four men and their Yemeni translator a week ago, told the AP that the hostages were placed in a car headed for San'a at 1:15 p.m. local time. He did not say where they embarked on their journey.
In return for freeing the prisoners, Zabara said that five of his tribesmen, now held at a military camp in Abdyan, where the family has been prevented from visiting them, would be moved to a jail in the capital in about four days. He added that hopefully following Ramadan, which ends in late October, the five would be freed.
But a report by the official news agency said that security and armed forces had surrounded the area where the kidnappers were believed be hiding and were pursuing them to "bring them to justice."
The SABA report emphasized that force was not used to secure the hostages' freedom.
It named the suspected kidnappers as Salem al-Aswad, Rajih Hadi, Haithem Hadi, Mohammed Abdullah, and Ali al-Aswad.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the reports. However, the foreign minister planned a press conference later Monday.
The four French tourists were kidnapped Sept. 10 in Shabwa province, as they were headed south to the port city of Aden in a convoy of tourists.
Ibnalwazeer, a legislator who is also the chief of Yemen's influential al-Awaleq tribe, last year participated in negotiations that led to the freeing of a former German diplomat and his family.
On the deal to secure the hostages' freedom, he said the kidnappers' demands for the release of some of their relatives from prison would be discussed by the government officials.
The incident is the latest in a long series of kidnappings by tribesman to win concessions from the Yemeni government.