Gunmen seize Italian embassy worker in Yemen | News | DW | 29.07.2012
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Gunmen seize Italian embassy worker in Yemen

Unknown gunmen have kidnapped an Italian diplomat in Yemen's capital. Meanwhile, scores of armed men loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed a building near the Interior Ministry, seizing it briefly.

An Italian embassy guard was kidnapped as he walked on a street near the mission's building in the capital of Sanaa, a Yemeni Interior Ministry official said on Sunday.

"The diplomat was near the embassy building when men came by in a car and took him by force. He is responsible for security in the embassy," a security source said. The diplomat's whereabouts remains unknown.

In Rome, the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the abduction and said they were working to secure the man's release.

No group has yet claimed responsibility. Disgruntled tribesmen have been known to abduct foreigners, but al Qaeda has also been kidnapping foreigners in recent weeks.

The captives are often used as a bargaining tool to force authorities to release detainees, and most are released unharmed.

Gunmen take building

In a separate incident on Sunday, gunmen loyal to Yemen's former leader seized a security building near the Interior Ministry, demanding they be enrolled in the police force. The men were reportedly sent by a relative of ex-President Saleh.

The incident reminds Yemenis of how their nation has yet to retain political stability following a change in power earlier this year. Saleh ruled Yemen for more than 30 years and gave up power to elected President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in February, following a yearlong uprising.

A US-brokered deal gave Saleh immunity from prosecution in return for relinquishing power. Many believe the immunity deal has given Saleh a free hand to hinder the new president's efforts.

Sunday's storming of the building was seen as a direct challenge to Hadi's authority. The new president has been trying to restructure the armed forces, and the loyalists who took the building on Sunday demanded jobs in the police force, which had been promised to them in return for tackling last year's uprising. The promise has yet to be fulfilled.

tm/ccp (AP, Reuters)