A Finnish couple and an Austrian man abducted in Yemen are being held by tribesmen demanding a ransom in return for their freedom, an interior ministry official has said.

"We have information that a tribal group is holding the three Western nationals and they are asking for a ransom," the official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They were kidnapped in the capital Sanaa on Friday.

The ministry official said the three were being held in the town of Khawlan, about 20km east of Sanaa.

Kidnappings of Westerners occur sporadically in Yemen, mostly by tribesmen seeking bargaining clout in disputes with the authorities, or by al-Qaeda and allied groups.

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

Source: Agencies