AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s military and security authorities have vowed to hunt down the abductors of aid workers in the southeastern province of Hadramout as an international aid organization reduced humanitarian activities due to security concerns.
The government’s security committee in Hadramout has ordered army units to remove unofficial checkpoints, intensify security measures throughout the province’s fast lands and track down the armed men who are holding two international aid workers.
Security forces across the province also received similar orders from the ministry of interior to capture the abductors.
“We will be catching them sooner or later,” a senior official at the ministry of interior, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Arab News on Monday, adding that the ministry was still unaware of the abductors’ identities and demands.
“They are a mix of drug addicts and terrorists,” the official said.
Earlier this month, unidentified men kidnapped two foreign workers with the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders in a remote area between the city of Seiyun and Aber in the province of Hadramout.
Local media reports said that the abductors posed as military officers after setting up a fake checkpoint in Khoushem Al-Ain area, asked the German and Mexican workers and their Yemeni associates to board their Toyota pick-up, and quickly drove deeper into the desert.
The abduction prompted the MSF on Sunday into closing some of its humanitarian operations in the central city of Marib, a move that is expected to exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in the Yemeni city that hosts more than two million internally displaced people.
“Medecins sans Frontieres announces the closure of some of its humanitarian activities in the Marib project, following the disappearance of two colleagues as they were on their way to the project,” the medical charity said in a statement.
“We consider this as an unacceptable act of violence and we are concerned about the current exposure of the MSF teams in the area,” it added.
The MSF said that it would shut down five out of eight mobile clinics operating in Marib and would completely withdraw support from Marib General Hospital.
In the southern province of Abyan, local officials said on Monday that talks to secure the release of five UN workers held by suspected Al-Qaeda militants reached a deadlock as the militants refused to free the hostages before the government met their demands.
The militants seek to swap the hostages with prisoners in Aden and have demanded a ransom of more than $300,000.
Last month, the suspected Al-Qaeda militants abducted the five UN workers in Abyan’s Moudia district while heading back to their office in Aden after a field mission.
Local officials told Arab News that the militants are holding the abducted workers in rugged and mountainous areas in Abyan and threaten to execute them if the army or security services use force to release them.
Despite the army and ministry of interior’s stern orders for hunting down the abductors, critics have cast doubt over the ability of the country’s poor security and military units to apprehend Al-Qaeda militants or drug dealers inside their safe havens in Abyan or Hadramout.
Yemeni officials have signaled they would seek to enlist the help of military officers from the US and Saudi Arabia.
Support for the local security service was discussed last week by the first undersecretary of the interior ministry, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Al-Sharef, with American and Arab coalition counterterrorism officers.
Quoting a Yemeni intelligence officer, Al-Ayyam daily newspaper reported last week that American officers have participated in the current efforts to hunt down the abductors in Abyan and Hadramout.
Despite their attempts to make a comeback in south Yemen provinces, Al-Qaeda in Yemen has suffered decisive blows over the past six years after Yemeni military forces, trained and armed by the Arab coalition, expelled them from their major urban and rural strongholds.