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Dutch couple kidnapped in Yemen plead for help in video

By Hakim Al-Masmari, for CNN
July 17, 2013 -- Updated 0443 GMT (1243 HKT)
A still image from a YouTube video uploaded on July 16, 2013 shows Dutch nationals Boudewijn Berendsen and Judith Spiegel.
A still image from a YouTube video uploaded on July 16, 2013 shows Dutch nationals Boudewijn Berendsen and Judith Spiegel.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The couple was kidnapped on June 15 as they were leaving their home in Sanaa
  • A tribal leader involved in mediation says the couple is going through depression
  • In a video posted online, the Dutch woman says "we have a big problem"
  • Government records show some 35 kidnapping attempts in Yemen this year

(CNN) -- A Dutch couple kidnapped in Yemen last month pleaded for help in a video released on Monday.

"We have been kidnapped here in Yemen and we have a big problem," said the woman in 90-second video posted online. The couple went on to say they had spoken to the Dutch ambassador to Yemen about the demands of their kidnappers, and are asking for help.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, released a statement saying: "The Foreign minister announced on the Ministry's Facebook page that the government is concerned about the safety of the citizens. The situation is being given the government's full attention. The families of the abductees have been contacted."

The couple was kidnapped on June 15 as they were leaving their home in Hadda zone, one of the most secure locations of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. They had gone missing for a week before the authorities were alerted and the Dutch embassy informed.

Source: 3 European hostages released in Yemen

A tribal leader involved in the mediation process told CNN that the health situation of the Dutch couple was stable although they are going through depression.

"The kidnappers are asking for a ransom but have yet to announce how much," said the tribal leader who asked to remain anonymous due to sensitivity of the matter.

The tribal leader said that the government has indirectly asked a number of tribal leaders to be involved in this case and to help in ensuring their safe release, adding "our priority is the safety of the Dutch couple."

When contacted by CNN, the Yemeni Interior Ministry would not address who was behind the latest kidnapping. "It is for the best interest of this case that comments are not given by the ministry. But I would like to assure that we are doing our best," a senior official in the minister's office said. The official would not say if the government had information on the whereabouts of the Dutch couple.

Interior Ministry records show that some 35 kidnapping attempts have taken place in Yemen this year. Most of the victims have been released, all unharmed.

Kidnapped Red Cross workers freed in Yemen

Al Qaeda is believed to have been behind most of the kidnappings, including that of a South African couple in May. A Finnish couple and a Austrian who were kidnapped by tribesmen last December were released five months later following tribal mediation involving Oman.

Last week, activists in Yemen launched an online signature campaign this week to exert some pressure on the Yemeni government to ensure that the disappearance of the Dutch couple is treated with care and caution.

The Yemeni Journalist Syndicate (YJS) has condemned the kidnapping, saying that local groups are using the practice as a bargaining chip against the government.

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