Vienna, 22 December 2005 Press release

Ministry for Foreign Affairs on the kidnapping of two Austrian citizens in Yemen


Vienna, 22 December 2005 - The Ministry for Foreign Affairs today confirmed the kidnapping of two Austrian citizens in Marib province in north-east Yemen. The kidnap victims are a 52-year-old man from Vienna, currently living in Styria, and a 31 year-old woman from Styria.

The man phoned an acquaintance in Austria early this morning and reported that he and his companion had been kidnapped. The woman spoke several times today by phone with the German Embassy in Sanaa, capital of Yemen.

According to her, the kidnappers are demanding the release of three imprisoned men in exchange for the Austrian hostages. Yesterday the Yemeni security authorities already sent representatives to start negotiations with the kidnappers.

As soon as the kidnapping became known, the competent Austrian authorities, coordinated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, took all possible steps without delay to bring about the release of the hostages. A crisis committee led by Secretary General Johannes Kyrle has been meeting since yesterday in consultation with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defence. The Austrian Ambassador in Oman, who is responsible for Yemen, the head of the Crisis Reaction Centre in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and an expert from the Ministry of the Interior travelled today to Sanaa and have made direct contact with the Yemeni Government and the German Embassy.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is in permanent contact with the Crisis Centre of the German Foreign Office in Berlin, since Germany has an embassy in Sanaa that is functioning as a coordination centre, and with other European partners. The British EU Presidency has also been informed.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has also been in regular contact since yesterday with the Ambassador of Yemen and the Yemeni Government, which is responsible for resolving the case. State Secretary Hans Winkler spoke to the Yemeni Foreign Minister by phone and appealed to Yemeni Government to do its utmost to ensure the safety of the two Austrians, to refrain from using force and to bring about the rapid release of the hostages.

Contact for further enquiries:
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Press Department
From Austria: 050 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
From abroad: ++43 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: 050 1159 213 or ++43 50 1159 213