BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced that two Lackawanna, N.Y. men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to kidnap persons in a foreign country.
In December 2022, FBI investigators began investigating the travel of the victim, who they believe was tricked into traveling from Buffalo to Yemen in an attempt to force her into an arranged marriage.
The defendants and victim’s father and brother, 50-year-old Khaled Abhughanem and 32-year-old Waleed Abughanem, allegedly discussed killing the victim if she refused to travel to Yemen.
Further investigation found that in September 2021, without her family’s knowledge, the victim traveled to Mexico. After her family learned of her location, they traveled to Mexico and physically forced her to return to the United States.
According to the victim, her father told her that “she would be traveling outside the United States whether she liked it or not, or he would bury her in the backyard.”
After she returned to the US, the victim attempted to flee her own, to only find that all the doors were locked. She was also forced to withdraw from the University at Buffalo, as well as forfeit all of her access to the internet and social media. She was also under constant threat of harm.
The victim was told that if she did not comply with the arranged marriage, she would be locked in her home, and without contact with the outside world forever. The victim, who was engaged at the time, was also told that her fiancé, who they disapproved of, would be killed.
After the victim’s fiancé reported that he did not hear from her for over a week, he called Lackawanna Police. Police visited the victim’s home, and told the family to contact the victim’s fiancé.
After this welfare check, the victim was taken to Sanaa, Yemen where she is currently being held. Allegedly, the victim’s father was offered $500,000 for a marriage proposal, but when the victim refused, she was then physically assaulted.
In April 2022, members of the family left Yemen and returned to the US, leaving the victim in Yemen, where she is under the supervision of her two brothers.
The defendants are currently being held pending a detention hearing on Feb. 17.
This story was originally published Feb. 16, 2022 by WKBW in Buffalo, an E.W. Scripps Company.