Monday, November 29, 1999

Three Chinese oil workers abducted in Yemen

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Three Chinese oil company workers were kidnapped in Yemen on Sunday, in an apparent move by separatist militants to press government officials in a dispute, an official in the eastern province of Shabwa said.The three, who worked at an oil drilling company in Shabwa, were abducted by separatist militants to press security officials in a dispute over a criminal case, the official told Reuters."Negotiations are going on to try to have them released," he said.Disgruntled tribesmen have often abducted foreigners in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country to press for demands from authorities.Most of those abducted have been released unharmed, but in 2000 a Norwegian diplomat was killed in crossfire and in 1998 four Westerners were killed during a botched army attempt to free them from Islamist militants who had seized 16 tourists.Yemen has faced increasing unrest by militants seeking the re-establishment of southern Yemen as an independent state.North and south Yemen united in 1990. But many in the south, where most of the Arab country's oil facilities are, complain northerners take their resources and deny them political rights.The government, struggling to stabilise a fractious country in which central authority is often weak, faces international pressure to quell domestic conflicts in order to focus on fighting a resurgent al Qaeda.(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Reed Stevenson)

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