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BBC Reporters Arrested in Yemen

May 28, 1998

SAN`A, Yemen (AP) _ Yemen has arrested three British Broadcasting Corp. journalists who disguised themselves as women to film without permission in a remote area, police said Wednesday.

The television crew was detained when it arrived Tuesday in the capital San`a after a weeklong trip in western Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

Yemeni police identified the three as Robin Barnwell, a producer; Ragi Omar, a Jordan-based reporter; and Frank Smith, a cameraman.

In London, BBC spokesman John Steel confirmed the arrests and said his company was pressing for the their release.

British diplomats were unavailable for comment.

It was not clear if charges had been filed or how long the reporters would remain in custody.

Before their arrest, the crew had spent a week with the Bani Dhabyan tribe, the guide said on condition of anonymity. The Bani Dhabyan have carried out numerous kidnappings, including the seizure of a British teacher, David Mitchell, his wife Caroline, and their 14-year old son, Ben.

The three men wore traditional face and body veils to hide from authorities while they interviewed tribespeople near the ancient town of Marib, 105 miles northeast of San`a, their Yemeni guide said.

The film crew arrived in Yemen last week and was refused permission to film near Marib because authorities feared for their safety, the police source said.

Large swaths of Yemen are ruled by armed tribesmen who kidnap foreigners to demand money or press for concessions from the government.

Eleven foreigners were taken hostage this year and all were released unharmed.

Update hourly