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Middle East

Foreign tourists kidnapped in Yemen's capital

Three foreigners were seized in the centre of Sanaa by unknown armed men, security officials say.
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2012 21:34

Gunmen have abducted three foreign tourists in the centre of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, security officials said.

No further details were immediately available about the nationality of the kidnapped on Friday or the affiliation of the abductors, but an al-Qaeda armed group has been involved in kidnapping foreigners in the past.

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"People saw a car stop in Tahrir Square, militants snatching three Westerners and speeding away," one official told the Reuters news agency, adding that police were searching for the kidnappers.

The incident came just two days after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi overhauled the armed forces in a drive to bring stability and weaken political rivals in the impoverished country.

Lawlessness in Yemen has alarmed its neighbour and top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia, as well as the US, which increasingly views the Arabian Peninsula state as a front line in its struggle against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Tribesmen have often carried out abductions to pressure the government to release their kinsmen from prison.

This week's overhaul of the armed forces is widely seen as part of an effort to curb the still considerable influence of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, loosen his family's grip on the military and implement an internationally-backed plan to restore stability.

Hadi's government is also grappling with the threat of al Qaeda and a growing secessionist movement in the south.

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