Oil workers kidnapped in Yemen

Five Yemeni oil workers were kidnapped in the sparsely-populated northern province of al-Jawf late on Thursday, and the interior ministry is blaming the Houthi rebels.

"The Houthis captured five staff from an oil company in Marib along with their car when they were inspecting fuel stations in the directorate of Barat in al-Jouf province," the ministry said in a statement.

According to Reuters, a Houthi source denied involvement, saying the kidnap was a result of a tribal dispute.

The incident is the latest sign of growing tensions between the government and the rebels following the ceasefire that was agreed last February. AFP reports:

Houthi rebels and the Sanaa government increasingly accuse each other of failing to honour their respective commitments to the ceasefire agreement ...

Sanaa and its loyal tribes in the restive region of Saada have charged that the Zaidi Shiite rebels did not evacuate their positions in the rugged mountains and are continually violating the truce in other ways.

The rebels, meanwhile, have accused the government of flouting the accord by failing to release hundreds of prisoners and by ignoring a commitment to work on reconstructing the city of Saada.

The rebels also accuse President Salih of failing to keep a promise to release about 3,000 people who were detained during the conflict.

Yesterday, the rebels complained that the Yemen government had threatened them with "genocide and all-around war". A representative of the rebels said: "The threats came from top governmental officials of the Sanaa-based presidency palace."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 11 July 2010.