Tuesday 25 July 2017

Australia citizen freed in Yemen with Oman's help

The Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said Al Saidat helped with the negotiations.
The Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said Al Saidat helped with the negotiations.

An Australian citizen kidnapped in Yemen last year has been released following assistance by the sultanate of Oman, the Australian Foreign Ministry has said.

Oman's Foreign Ministry said the country helped free the Australian citizen with the assistance of Yemeni tribal leaders.

Its statement, carried by the state-run Oman News Agency, said the Australian had been "missing" in Yemen.

It said the Australian government requested Oman's assistance in facilitating his safe passage.

The man was not named in either statement and it was not immediately known whether a ransom had been paid.

Over the past months, several videos had surfaced online purporting to show an Australian kidnapped in Yemen.

In footage seen in January, the man gives his name as Craig McAllister while a rifle is seen pointed at his head.

He says his captors will kill him if their demands are not met. The man does not say who his captors are or specify their demands.

At the time, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, Australia, only said it was providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian man kidnapped in Yemen.

Yemeni security officials said Mr McAllister was taken in early October in the capital, Sanaa, but that his captors remain unknown.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday the Australian was "safe and well" following "months of patient work" by the Australian government.

Ms Bishop also expressed appreciation for the efforts of Oman's ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said, whose country located the missing Australian citizen and facilitated his passage into Oman.

Australia's government, along with many others around the world, strongly discourages its citizens from travelling to Yemen.

The war-torn nation on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is facing more than six years of political turmoil and a Saudi-led war against Yemen's Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Militant groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have taken advantage of the chaos, seizing territory and launching attacks.

There have been multiple kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen by various factions over the past years, demanding payment in exchange for a release.

Oman has played a mediating role in the region, and is not part of the Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries bombing the Houthis.

The country has helped facilitate the release of other hostages in Yemen, including two US citizens who were flown to the sultanate in October following negotiations between Omani officials and Yemeni authorities in Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis and their allies.

Oman, a US ally, maintains warm relations with nearby Iran.

The country was also credited last year with helping to secure the release of a French-Tunisian woman working for the Red Cross who had been kidnapped by armed men in Yemen and held for nearly a year.

AP

Press Association

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