Three journalists from the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel are thought to have been kidnapped from the south-west Yemeni city of Taiz. The city, although under the control of Yemen's internationally-recognised government, has been ransacked by Iran-backed Shia Houthi militants for months now as part of the larger Yemen civil war.

The channel's Arabic correspondent Hamdi al-Bokari and his crew, Abdulaziz al-Sabri and Moneer al-Sabai, had last been spotted on 18 January (Monday) in Taiz. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance or the people behind it were unknown.

Commenting on the abductions, Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, said: "They were covering events in the besieged city of Taiz, reporting on the human cost of the conflict. Our colleagues were simply doing their job of reporting the story and informing the world of what is taking place in Yemen. We hold their abductors responsible for their safety and security."

Appealing for help, Souag said it was sad to see that in times of conflict, news organisations and journalists continue to be soft targets, as a result of which they lose their freedom to work without the fear of intimidation, abduction or unlawful arrest.

Al Jazeera has won a lot of praise for its coverage in the Middle East, specially of the dictatorial regimes and war-stricken areas. However, this has come at a price, with several of its journalists being kidnapped, jailed and even killed.

In December, a cameraman from Al Jazeera died after being shot in the Syrian province of Homs. Reporters Without Borders said at least five journalists were killed in Yemen alone last year.