July 16, 2013 / 1:12 PM / in 6 years

Dutch couple held in Yemen plead for help, say at risk of death

SANAA (Reuters) - A Dutch couple held hostage in Yemen have appealed for help to secure their release, saying their captors have threatened to kill them in days unless the Dutch government meets unspecified demands, according to a video recording posted on YouTube.

Yemen is grappling with myriad problems, including kidnappings of foreigners and attacks on public infrastructure, as it tries to restore state authority lost in 2011 during mass protests that forced out veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Judith Spiegel, a Dutch journalist held since early June, said in the video that she and her partner had “addressed” their country’s ambassador in Sanaa recently with the kidnappers’ demands but nothing had been done to bring about their release.

“Now there’s another 10 days to do something. These people are armed. If no solution is found after 10 days, they’ll shoot us dead,” Spiegel, speaking in Dutch, said in a trembling voice. She did not say how the couple had contacted the ambassador.

Her partner, Boudewijn Berendsen, said they were afraid. “Everyone in the Netherlands should get the government and the ambassador into action,” he said, seated beside her.

The Dutch embassy in Sanaa referred questions to the foreign ministry in The Hague, where no officials could be reached.

A Yemeni police source said last month that Spiegel, who had been working in Yemen as a researcher, vanished with her partner after they left their home in Sanaa’s Hadda district, which houses many diplomatic missions.

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Several Westerners have been kidnapped this year in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, where a transitional government is struggling to impose law outside the main cities.

Kidnapping is rife in Yemen. Disgruntled tribesmen often take hostages to press the government to free jailed relatives or improve public services. Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants have been behind some of the kidnappings.

Last month gunmen seized two South Africans in the southern city of Taiz. Three members of the Red Cross, including a Swiss citizen, were also briefly held in May.

An Austrian and two Finnish men were released in May after being kidnapped in December and sold to al Qaeda. Austria and Finland denied paying a ransom. A Swiss woman was freed in February after spending a year in captivity.

Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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