East Texas oil worker abducted in Yemen – Longview News-Journal

The weekend kidnapping in Yemen of a White Oak High School and Kilgore College graduate shook his family Monday as news of the abduction reached East Texas.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Ron Burch said upon learning Monday afternoon his oldest brother, 63-year-old oil worker Danny Lavone Burch, 63, reportedly was taken from his car on a busy street in the Yemeni capital.

“They did it in broad daylight in front of everyone,” Nadia Forsa, Burch’s wife, told The New York Times by phone from Sanaa, the capital city.

She said Burch had left home Saturday morning to take their sons to a sports club but didn’t return. Police later told her witnesses said Burch had been stopped by five armed men in civilian clothes who took him away.

Burch had been working in Yemen since the late 1980s. U.S. State Department officials said they were aware of the kidnapping report, and Forsa said her husband has no problems or disputes with anyone, the Reuters news service reported.

Ron Burch lives in Kilgore with his wife, Kilgore Police Officer Angela Burch. He said his brother attended their wedding in 2000.

On Monday, Ron Burch said he’d long feared his brother might one day be kidnapped.

“I hope that he’s safe and is returned to his family. He’s never been a person who has spite or would cause problems for folks over there,” said Ron Burch, who last saw his brother more than a decade ago when he “moved to Yemen for good.”

“He fell in love, man,” said Ron Burch. “My brother is that way. He forgot everything else in his life.”

The brothers share the same birthday, though Danny Burch is exactly 10 years older. They have five other siblings, but their parents and grandparents have died.

“He’s my brother and he bailed me out from a bad situation that I was growing up in,” Ron Burch said. “He did me right.”

The family moved to Longview from West Monroe, Louisiana, 50 years ago, then moved a year later to White Oak.

In high school, Danny Burch was an outside linebacker on the school’s 1971 football team that reached the Class A state semifinals.

“He was a pretty big in White Oak sports,” Ron Burch said.

White Oak Mayor Kyle Kutch graduated from high school with Burch in 1972 but said he hadn’t seen or heard from him since then.

“We’re hoping and praying that he’s OK and that he’s found safe,” Kutch said.

Many Westerners have been abducted over the years in Yemen, a poor country on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula long roiled by civil conflicts.

Armed groups, including a powerful affiliate of al-Qaida and the Houthi rebels who control the capital, have abducted foreigners to extract ransoms from their governments or because they accuse them of being spies.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Burch’s abduction, and it remained unclear why he was taken.

Burch has been living in Yemen for years and working as an engineer for Safer Oil Co., a state-owned company. He had converted to Islam, married a Yemeni woman and has three children, ages 7, 9 and 12, according to his wife and colleagues.

According to his LinkedIn page, Burch has held numerous jobs in the oil industry in Texas and Yemen. He worked for Hunt Oil Co. and Halliburton for many years before joining Yemen-based Safer.

Most recently, he has worked as a mechanic and cement technician at Safer, the LinkedIn page said.

Forsa told The New York Times that when Burch did not return Saturday morning, she called him and found that his phone had been turned off. She called the sports club and then his office, but no one knew where he was.

“I knew that something was wrong,” she said.

Police later told her that after Burch was taken, two of his abductors parked his car on a side street, where Forsa found it.

“When I saw the car, my heart fell,” she said.

She told the couple’s sons that their father was traveling and that she looked upset because he had not informed her ahead of time. “I don’t want to ruin their lives,” she said.

Forsa said she did not know who had taken her husband. “We don’t know who is behind this,” she said.

A Yemeni security official and two of Burch’s colleagues at the oil company confirmed the account, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

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