Yemeni ambassador tells two kidnapped Austrians may be released

Yemen's ambassador to Vienna suggested Thursday that two Austrians kidnapped in the Middle Eastern country soon could be released, and Austria's Foreign Ministry said one of the captives had been heard from. The ambassador, Ali Hameed Sharaf, did not elaborate but told the Austria Press Agency that his information came from Yemen's Interior Ministry in San'a, which he said was taking the abductions "very seriously."

"Everything is approaching a peaceful resolution," he said. Austria's Foreign Ministry later told APA that one of the two missing tourists telephoned an acquaintance in Vienna on Thursday. The ministry said the captives were a man and a woman, one from Vienna and the other from the southern province of Styria. No names were released.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Georg Schnetzer said envoys from his office and the Interior Ministry were en route to Yemen in hopes of winning the hostages' freedom and would be in San'a Thursday afternoon.

The two were kidnapped Wednesday while visiting a site in the northern province of Marib, local Yemeni officials and police said. They said tribal gunmen kidnapped the pair and probably took them to an area called Abeda.

Tribesmen kidnap Westerners from time to time in Yemen, often to try to force concessions from the government. The hostages are usually released unharmed, but several were killed in 2000 when security forces carried out a raid to force their release, reports the AP. I.L.

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