updated 1/2/2006 9:34:57 AM ET 2006-01-02T14:34:57

Three Italian women kidnapped in north Yemen have refused to go free until their abductors release two Italian men held with them, Yemeni tribal and state officials said Monday.

The Italian tourists were abducted Sunday in Marib Province, about 75 miles northeast of the Yemeni capital, San'a. Hours later, officials said the kidnappers had released the three women after a government negotiator convinced them that abducting women violated tribal values.

But the women declined to leave the kidnappers' hideout until the tribesmen freed their male colleagues, tribal authorities and security officials said on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to address the media.

The kidnappers, who have a history of abducting foreigners and Yemenis, want the government to release eight members of their tribe. One of the eight faces murder charges and was extradited to Yemen from the United Arab Emirates.

Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul-Kader Bajammal said Monday his government would not negotiate with the tribesmen and that more troops had been sent to the area where the kidnappers are believed to be hiding. He said he also sent the abductors "a stern warning," declining to elaborate.

The kidnappers, armed members of the al-Zaydi tribe, have threatened to kill the five if security forces try to raid their hideout in the Sirwah mountains, tribal officials in contact with the kidnappers said. Troops had closed the two main outlets to Sirwah region on Sunday.

The Italian Foreign Ministry has said the hostages were among a group of 16 tourists. It has not named the hostages, but Italian news reports have identified the women as Maura Tonetto, Camilla Romigni and Patrizia Rossi, and the men as Piergiorgio Gamba and Enzo Bottillo.

The Italians were seized a day after another Yemeni tribe released a former top German diplomat, four members of his family and three Yemeni guides after holding them for four days.

Tribesmen frequently kidnap tourists to force concessions from the government in Yemen, a poor, mountainous nation on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula where state control in outlying areas is shaky.

The hostages are usually freed unharmed, but several were killed in 2000 when Yemeni soldiers carried out a botched raid to free them.

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