November 23, 2009 / 7:30 PM / 8 years ago

Japanese engineer freed in Yemen

2 Min Read

SANAA (Reuters) - A Japanese engineer abducted by Yemeni tribesmen earlier this month was released and arrived in the capital Sanaa Monday.

The kidnappers seized the engineer, who was working on a Yemeni government project, on November 16 to press for the release of jailed relatives.

"I am thankful for efforts to release me in this relatively short period of time," the tired-looking but smiling man, identified as Takeo Mashimo, 63, told reporters at a ceremony attended by Sanaa Governor Numan Dwaid and the Japanese ambassador.

It was not immediately clear if Yemen had met the kidnappers' demands.

The abduction is likely to add to the security concerns of foreign firms, especially those developing the oil and gas sector of the Arabian Peninsula country which is battling a Shi'ite rebellion in the north.

Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries outside Africa, is also fighting al Qaeda militants and facing rising separatist sentiment in the south.

The man was kidnapped in the town of Arhab, about 60 km (40 miles) northeast of Sanaa.

Disgruntled tribesmen often kidnap Western tourists in Yemen to pressure the government to provide better services and improve living conditions or to win the release of detained relatives.

Most foreigners have been released unharmed. However in July three women from a party of nine kidnapped foreigners were found dead. The others -- five Germans and a Briton -- are missing.

The killings coincided with a rise in separatist and militant tensions in the country whose instability has alarmed Western countries and neighboring Saudi Arabia.

One analyst said at the time the killings bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda but no claim of responsibility has been made.

Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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