Armed men have seized an employee of the Iranian embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, police said.
In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told the ISNA news agency on Sunday that “one of the administrative staff members of the Iranian Embassy in Yemen has been abducted by an unknown group.”
“This [abducted] person is Iranian,” Araqchi confirmed, naming him as Nour-Ahmad Nikbakht.
The Iranian man was travelling through the diplomatic quarter in southern Sanaa on Sunday when gunmen blocked the road, forced him to get out of his vehicle and took him to an unknown location.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the kidnapping. “There are suspicions that al-Qaeda is behind the kidnapping,” a Yemeni security officer told the AFP news agency.
Yemen’s government is grappling with a host of challenges, including a separatist movement in the south and armed groups, as it tries to restore authority lost during mass protests in 2011 that overthrew veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Sunday’s incident is the latest in a series of abductions of foreigners in Yemen. Hundreds of people have been abducted over the past 15 years. Almost all have been freed unharmed.
Groups linked to Al-Qaeda, have been holding Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul in Aden, Abdullah al-Khalidi, since March 2012. Groups demand the release of female Al-Qaeda-linked prisoners held in Saudi Arabia in return for Khalidi’s release. They have also held a South African couple since May.
Used for bargain
Most kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are carried out by members of its powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips to press the government to free jailed relatives or improve public services.
A Dutch couple abducted in Yemen last month issued an impassioned plea in an Internet video this month for their government to act to secure their release, warning they face execution.
In early May, members of a southern tribe freed three Red Cross employees, including a Swiss and a Kenyan, along with two Egyptian hostages, following tribal mediation.