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German diplomat, family missing in Yemen

Reports say 5 were kidnapped

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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A former German deputy foreign minister and his family are missing in Yemen, German officials said Wednesday, and there are reports that they were kidnapped.

"We will try to bring them to safety as quickly as possible," German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said.

Juergen Chrobog, his wife and three children were in a tour group traveling from Aden to Shabua province when their vehicle fell behind and disappeared, German television network ARD reported.

Chrobog, 65, also was ambassador to the United States from 1995 to 2001.

ARD said kidnappers are demanding the release of jailed comrades.

Reuters quoted a kidnappper from the Abdullah tribe as telling the news service by phone that the five hostages are safe.

"Their life is not in danger, and they are guests of our tribe," the tribe member told Reuters.

"We were forced to do this to focus the government's attention to our cause," Reuters quoted him as saying. He added that he hoped the kidnapping -- the third involving Westerners this year -- would pressure the San'a government to free five of his tribesmen who are in jail for criminal charges, including murder, Reuters reported.

German sources told CNN that Chrobog and his family were on a private trip at the invitation of a Yemenese deputy foreign minister. The sources said the tour group reported the family missing.

Chrobog has served in the German government since the early 1970s. Most recently, he was state secretary.

Yemeni tribesmen seized two Austrians last week, and another group captured two Swiss tourists a month ago, Reuters reported, adding that both kidnappings aimed to pressure the government to free jailed relatives.

In both cases, the tourists later were released unharmed, according to Reuters.

CNN's Chris Burns contributed to this report.

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