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5 Kidnapped Italians Freed


The ordeal of five Italian tourists kidnapped in Yemen five days ago ended early Friday. An accord was reached with the Yemeni tribe that had taken them hostage. The three Italian women and two men were released and at least four of the kidnappers were taken into custody.

Relatives of the five Italian tourists taken captive in Yemen Sunday by a rebel tribe rejoiced Friday morning when they were woken up to news of their release. Authorities said the three women and two men are all in good health.

While no details were immediately released on what persuaded the kidnappers to the release of the hostages, the Italian ambassador to Yemen, Mario Boffo, said no ransom was paid.

The husband of one of the women who were taken hostage, Raffaele Polato, was beyond himself in happiness at the news of the release.

He said an unimaginable tension has ended and has been replaced by joy that cannot be described. He added that he knew that they had been released without a raid and that they are physically well.

Italian authorities said an agreement with the kidnappers was reached in the early hours of the morning. The Italians, who had been held in a hideout in the Sirwah mountains, were transported to the Yemeni capital San'a by helicopter.

The government had deployed a large number of troops and helicopters around the kidnappers' hideout in the past few days and water supplies had also been cut off to the area.

The head of the Italian-Yemeni association, Mr. Arhab Alpahri said the release followed the pressure from the government troops throughout the night. The kidnappers, he added, were hoping to escape.

Mr. Alpahri confirmed that no force was used. The Yemeni government had assured Italy that no action would be taken to endanger the life of the hostages and this promise was kept.

Elisabetta Belloni, head of the Crisis Unit at the Foreign Ministry says the Yemeni government said from the start they had the area where the Italians were held under control.

She adds that the Yemeni government was very effective and its work led to an accord with the kidnappers. The priority, she says, was always the hostages' safety and therefore avoiding any action that could put their lives at risk.

Yemeni news sources say the kidnappers attempted to escape leaving the hostages in the mountain hideout. At least four of the six men involved in the abduction were caught and taken into custody.

The Italians were abducted in Marib province, northeast of the capital San'a by tribesmen who wanted to pressurize the Yemeni government to release imprisoned members of their tribe. Tribesmen often resort to kidnappings in Yemen to obtain concessions from the government.