“The Japanese engineer who was held at Bait al Gob village in Arhab district was kidnapped by members of al Qa’eda, to which one of the tribesmen in jail belongs,” said Abduljaleel Sinan, one of the negotiation committee members seeking the release the hostage.
Japanese media have identified the man as Takeo Mashimo, 63.
“The relatives of the kidnappers were about to release the Japanese hostage, but one tribesman who belongs to al Qa’eda snatched the hostage Friday night and fled to unidentified area in al Jawf,” Mr Sinan told NewsYemen, an independent local online news site, yesterday.
Abdulrehman al Marwani, another negotiator, however, dismissed the idea that al Qa’eda had kidnapped the Japanese hostage. “It is not true that al Qa’eda kidnapped the hostage. We have been told the kidnappers moved their hostage into a village in al Jawf just to avoid the tribal negotiators’ pressure on them, though I expect he is still in Arhab,” Mr al Marwani said.
“We were about to reach an agreement with the kidnappers that they would release the hostage and we will write them a letter to guarantee the release of their relative in a month’s time. They were also seeking guarantees that they would not be arrested by the government.”
Mr Mashimo worked for a Japanese development agency in Yemen. He was kidnapped last Sunday along with his Yemeni driver by armed tribesmen in Arhab, 45km north-east of the capital, Sana’a, while on his way to to supervise the construction of a school building.
The kidnappers have said they would set him free in exchange for the release of a 22-year-old family member identified as Hussein Abdullah Gob.
Gob was imprisoned by US forces for a year in Iraq along with other jihadists and was later jailed for another year in Syria before he was handed to the Yemeni government.
Yemen has held Gob in jail for two years without trial, according to his relatives.