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AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s military and security authorities have pledged to hunt down kidnappers of aid workers in southeastern Hadramout province as an international aid organization scales back its humanitarian activities due to security issues.

The government security committee in Hadramout has ordered army units to remove unofficial checkpoints, step up security measures in the fast-moving lands of the province and track down gunmen who are holding two aid workers international.

Security forces across the province also received similar orders from the Interior Ministry to capture the kidnappers.

“We will catch them sooner or later,” a senior Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Arab News on Monday, adding that the ministry was still unaware of the incident. identity and demands of the kidnappers.

“They are a mix of drug addicts and terrorists,” the official said.

Earlier this month, unidentified men abducted two foreign workers from the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders in a remote area between the town of Seiyun and Aber in Hadramout province.

Local media reported that the kidnappers posed as military officers after setting up a fake checkpoint in the Khoushem Al-Ain area, asked German and Mexican workers and their Yemeni associates to board their Toyota pickup, and quickly drove deeper into the desert.

The kidnapping prompted MSF on Sunday to end some of its humanitarian operations in the central town of Marib, a move that is expected to worsen the already dire humanitarian situation in the Yemeni city which hosts more than two million internally displaced people. from the country.

“Médecins sans frontières announces the closure of some of its humanitarian activities within the framework of the Marib project, following the disappearance of two colleagues on their way to the project,” the medical association said in a press release.

“We consider this an unacceptable act of violence and we are concerned about the current exposure of MSF teams in the region,” he added.

MSF said it would close five of the eight mobile clinics operating in Marib and completely withdraw its support to Marib General Hospital.

In the southern province of Abyan, local officials said on Monday talks to secure the release of five UN staff held by suspected al-Qaeda militants had stalled as militants refused to release the prisoners. hostages before the government responds to their demands.

The militants are seeking to swap the hostages with prisoners in Aden and have demanded a ransom of over $300,000.

Last month, suspected al-Qaeda militants abducted the five UN staff in Abyan’s Moudia district as they returned to their office in Aden after a field mission.

Local officials told Arab News that the militants are holding the kidnapped workers in rugged and mountainous areas of Abyan and threatening to execute them if the military or security services use force to free them.

Despite stern orders from the army and interior ministry to hunt down the kidnappers, critics have questioned the ability of the country’s security and military units to apprehend al-Qaeda militants or drug traffickers in their refuges in Abyan or Hadramout.

Yemeni officials said they would seek help from military officers from the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Support for the local security service was discussed last week by the Interior Ministry’s first undersecretary, Major General Mohammed Al-Sharef, with US and Arab coalition counterterrorism officers.

Quoting a Yemeni intelligence officer, Al-Ayyam daily reported last week that US officers have been involved in ongoing efforts to track down kidnappers in Abyan and Hadramout.

Despite their attempts to return to the southern provinces of Yemen, Al-Qaeda in Yemen has suffered decisive blows over the past six years after Yemeni military forces, trained and armed by the Arab coalition, expelled them from their main urban and rural strongholds.