Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Norwegian hostage freedom hopes delayed

Tuesday, 17th January, 2012

Talks to free the kidnapped Norwegian in Yemen have stalled amongst reports of disagreements between tribe members and authorities.

The 34-year-old UN employee was abducted from a main Sana street to be used as leverage for a prisoner trade. His kidnapper is a known criminal who has killed several soldiers.

Nine people travelled, Monday, to where the Norwegian is being held in the Marib Province following his transferral by car there.

It is reported two issues are now impeding negotiations. The situation in the country is extremely chaotic, with al-Qaida militants conquering new territory in the run-up to what may now be a delayed February 21st election. President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s future is uncertain following his formal handover of power at the weekend.

Authorities’ influence is weakened and they have to tackle several crises at once. This complicates negotiations further, according to Gregory Johnson, an US expert on Yemen at Princeton University, New Jersey. The other impediment is opposition to the relative’s release by family members of the soldiers that were killed.

“You have a situation here where a tribal member has been convicted of murder. It’s difficult, as it is unlikely they [surviving relatives] would want his release. [Whilst blood-money] is certainly an option, but what complicates it is that four family different families have each lost one member. There is no guarantee everyone will be satisfied with such a solution, which is usually met with scepticism,” Mr Johnson said to VG.

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that the captured Norwegian is being treated well, under the circumstances, and FM Jonas Gahr Støre is being continuously briefed on the situation.

The negotiators’ intermediary, Naji al-Sharif, told the paper by phone from Yemen, Monday, “He’s also been given his own translator who is assisting him.”

An unnamed source added that, “The tribe holding him does not want to harm him and will almost certainly not think of killing him, even if this drags on. Many similar cases have ended well here.”

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