U.N. official abducted in Yemen released unharmed, officials say

(file photo) Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the U.N. official was released unharmed.

Story highlights

  • U.N. says the man arrived in good health at a safe haven in the capital
  • Gunmen who snatched official were demanding release of a tribal leader, officials said
  • The official was released unharmed, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said
  • He was released following negotiations, Norwegian official says
A Norwegian U.N. official snatched from the streets of Yemen's capital city of Sanaa by armed tribesmen nearly two weeks ago was released unharmed, officials said Friday.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the 34-year-old man arrived in good health at a safe haven in the capital. The victim was part of a team of U.N. election observers scheduled to oversee Yemen's presidential elections in February, officials said.
The U.N. official, who was not identified, had been released following negotiations by Yemeni officials, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement.
It was not immediately known what, if any, deal was struck by Yemen with the tribesmen for the official's release. He was kidnapped on January 15 by gunmen demanding the release of a jailed tribal leader, officials said.
Interior Ministry officials said previously the kidnapping took place just three miles south of the presidential palace, in one of the busiest and most secure neighborhoods in Yemen. Tribal sources said six men forced the Norwegian into a vehicle and drove him off to Mareb, about 170 km (105 miles) north of Sanaa.
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The kidnappers were demanding the release of Ali Nasser Hareekdan, whom a local council official in Mareb province said was the prime suspect behind the killing of four Yemeni troops. The soldiers were responsible for securing a business route for oil tankers.
Numerous tribal leaders previously told CNN that the Yemeni government was currently negotiating the release of the Norwegian. According to the tribal sources, the Yemeni government sent three negotiators in an effort to have the Norwegian released.
Mareb province is well known for tribes who kidnap foreigners and use them as bargaining chips to demand concessions from the governments. The hostages are rarely harmed.