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02/25/2013

Yemen hostage plea

This is heartbreaking:

 

It's Austrian hostage Dominik Neubauer, a 26-year-old Arabic student who was kidnapped along with a Finnish couple in Sanaa, Yemen, last December. He says on the short video, speaking in English and German, that he will be killed in seven days if ransom is not paid to the Yemeni tribe holding him. The video was posted Feb. 21.

"Mom, dad, Lucas, Angela, I love you more than anything. Up until now I am in good health," he says according to a translation by Reuters, as a single tear rolls down his cheek.

Austrian Foreign Ministery spokesperson Martin Weiss told The Associated Press that the video was the "first proof of life." There is no news on the Finnish couple.

There are many questions about the kidnappings - which are not uncommon in Yemen, but rarer in the capital. Tribal kidnappings in general have historically been hospitable affairs, where hostages are treated as guests as they're used as bargaining chips.

Of course much has changed since the emergence of Yemen's Al Qaeda branch and Yemeni government officials say they believe that Neubauer and his two friends were sold to Al Qaeda members (or allied Ansar al-Sharia) and transfered south of Sanaa to the town of al-Manaseh. As Iona Craig, (a friend of Neubauer's) reported, there was a ground assault in the area last month which the government claimed was an attempt to free the hostages.

 Craig wrote on Twitter last week: "The whole idea of a 'friendly Yemeni tribal kidnapping' has just gone out the window in the one minute seven seconds of that video."    

 

Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recepient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm

 

 

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