Two Georgetown alumni were kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen while traveling through the Middle East in December and were not released for three days.

Brothers Karim Chrobog (SFS ’01) and Felix Chrobog (COL ’04) were abducted while vacationing with their mother Magda, brother Fabian and father Jurgen, the former German ambassador to the United States, on Dec. 28.

While the family was on tour in Shawba, an eastern province in Yemen, two of their vehicles fell behind an auto convoy and became lost. Felix Chrobog, the youngest of the three brothers, said that the family’s vehicle was eventually surrounded by Yemeni tribesmen who had spotted the separated automobile.

“We immediately knew it was a kidnapping,” he said.

The tribesmen approached the vehicle with firearms and shots were exchanged between the kidnappers and the driver of the vehicle, Chrobog said.

Chrobog said the tribesmen, outraged that the Yemeni government had imprisoned several of their tribe’s members for murder and other charges, seized the family in order to attract the government’s attention.

On Dec. 31, the tribesmen reached an agreement to hold talks with the Yemeni government about the detainment of five other tribesmen in return for the family’s immediate release. Chrobog said the tribe’s demands have yet to be met.

Although no one was injured during the incident, Chrobog said that the firefight in which he and his family became embroiled was severe.

“The driver had bullet holes in his jacket,” he said.

Chrobog said that while he and his family were under their custody, the tribesmen drove them approximately 20 kilometers into the mountains surrounding the region. Felix and his family were not blindfolded during the process, he said.

“We could see where we were going.”

He said that he and his family were treated hospitably while being held captive. The family was given shelter, meals and clean water each day throughout the ordeal.

“It’s important to stress they were not terrorists,” he said.

Chrobog said that he and his family became particularly nervous when they received word that Yemeni police had surrounded the area where they were being held captive.

“We were aware that people had died when the Yemeni government tried to rescue hostages previously,” Felix said. “That was a very tense situation.”

The Chrobog family kidnapping was one of a number of recent abductions in the region. Tribesmen frequently kidnap tourists in an attempt to force concessions from the government in Yemen.

Three weeks ago, two Austrian tourists were kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen and set free shortly after their abduction. In November, two Swiss tourists were captured by tribesmen, but later released. The tribesmen used kidnapping to promote the release of relatives from prison in both cases.

According to Al-bab.com, a Yemeni statistical database, there have been 157 foreigners kidnapped in Yemen from 1996 to 2001.

Not all hostage situations in the region have ended peacefully. In 1998, four British captives were killed after being used by tribesmen as human shields against Yemeni troops. A Norwegian hostage was killed during a shootout in 2001.

Despite the wave of recent abductions, Chrobog said the kidnapping has not completely deterred him from traveling back to the region.

“I hope to come back to Yemen,” he said.

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