It may not have been Club Med, but 17 elderly French tourists said it was a “nice adventure” to be held captive for four days by tribesmen in Yemen’s remote mountains.
The tour group - 12 women and five men - returned to San’a on Monday carrying gifts that had been presented to them by their captors - antique guns and curved Yemeni daggers.
“We were afraid only once, when we were abducted,” Jean-Jacques Abassin, a 61-year-old from near Grenoble, told The Associated Press.
“After that it all turned into an entertaining program, during which we were introduced to Yemeni customs, dance, singing and food.”
Before boarding a plane to France Monday night, Abassin said that he and his wife, Monique, hope to return to Yemen one day.
Four of the alleged kidnappers have been arrested by police, the state news agency Saba reported.
Members of the Al Aslam tribe abducted 18 tourists Thursday, while the group was on a bus tour of Ma’rib, 120 miles east of the capital of San’a.
The tribesmen hoped to pressure authorities to release one of their kinsmen, jailed for kidnapping an American oil man in September.
They took their captive tourists to a village about 100 miles southeast into the Ain region. One hostage and the Yemeni tour bus driver were released Saturday in a goodwill gesture.
During negotiations, authorities told Al Aslam leaders that several of their fellow tribesmen had been arrested and warned that “three tribesmen will pay the price” for every hostage harmed, according to a tribal chief who helped mediate.
Authorities then threatened to attack the captors unless the French tourists were freed by midnight Sunday. Before time ran out, the tribesmen agreed to release the group Monday morning.
Kidnapping foreigners is common in Yemen, where heavily armed tribesmen in remote regions are virtually a law unto themselves.