MIDDLE EAST

Iraq

8 November Sources close to talks related to the kidnapping of 26 Qataris said: “Negotiations linked to their release have not stopped but part of the kidnappers’ conditions is to remain silent and not publicly discuss the issue; due to its sensitivity”. The Qataris were kidnapped on 16 December 2015 from a desert party in the province of Muthanna. Among the victims are said to be members of the Qatar ruling family. The source said that negotiations are being conducted through an intermediary at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Beirut, the kidnappers, the Qataris and a liaison officer linked to Hezbollah. The source added: “The kidnappers do not accept a ransom anymore, whatever the sum. They insist on the release of three Lebanese Hezbollah commanders who were kidnapped by al Nusra Front (aka Fatah al Shami)”. In November 2015, a Twitter account affiliated to al Nusra Front said that the militants had kidnapped three Hezbollah militants south of Aleppo, Syria. The kidnappers have given enough guarantees to prove the Qataris are in a safe location in Iraq, probably in southern Baghdad, and are in good health and being well-treated.

Syria

29 November Investigative and intelligence sources confirmed that Sergio Zanotti (60), an Italian national, had been kidnapped but it was not clear whether he was kidnapped by terrorists or common criminals. He had left Italy for southern Turkey for unspecified work reasons earlier in the year but disappeared around mid-April when he was expected back in Italy. Nobody reported Zanotti missing and there has not been a ransom demand. Earlier in the day, the Russian site Newsfront posted a video showing a man with a long beard and dressed in a white tunic, kneeling out in the open amid olive trees. Another man dressed in black and with his faced covered is standing behind pointing a machine gun. The kneeling man holds a sign with a date on it, apparently 15 November 2016. In another video posted on the site, the alleged hostage stands barefoot holding the same placard with an image from Zanotti’s passport below. The man says: “My name is Sergio Zanotti. I have been imprisoned here in Syria for seven months. I appeal to the Italian government to intervene on my behalf before I am executed”.

Yemen

9 November Houthi rebels kidnapped six teachers in the al Waziyya district accusing them of supporting the national army and Popular Resistance. The incident happened as there were new clashes between the national army and Houthi-Saleh militias on the rural al Silew front in the governorate of Taiz.

16 November A late report stated that Yusif Ajlan, former editor of the Yemeni opposition website Al Masdar Online, had been kidnapped from outside his house in Sana’a by Houthi rebels on 15 October. Al Masdar Online has been under constant attack by the Houthis since their coup in September 2014. The Houthis are notorious for their crackdown on freedom of speech and journalists who express dissent to the coup are kidnapped and their media outlets closed down.

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