Yemen frees two UN staffers, arrests kidnappers

Sanaa, March 26: Yemeni security forces have managed to free two Italians working for the UN office in the capital Sanaa, hardly over two hours after they were kidnapped earlier Tuesday, officials said.

After brief clashes the security forces arrested the kidnappers at a checkpoint near the presidential palace area in south Sanaa. They were running to get out of the capital, Xinhua reported.

Police have moved the freed Italians to a secure place and held the kidnappers for further investigation, officials said.

One of the kidnappers managed to escape after the clashes. The police were still searching for him.

The gunmen were believed to be Al Qaeda affiliates, according to police’s initial investigation.

Media said one of the abducted westerners is a diplomat. The two were kidnapped near the presidential palace in Sabeen area.

At least six foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen for the past two months. In February, tribesmen and Al Qaeda members abducted two British nationals and a German in Sanaa.

Foreigners are frequently kidnapped in Yemen, where the security situation has worsened since 2011 when a political upheaval severely weakened the government control.

Most of the kidnapped foreigners have been freed unharmed. Last month, a South African woman was freed from the southern province of Abyan, but a ransom of millions of US dollars was demanded for the release of her husband, according to media.

The Yemeni government has taken efforts to stabilise the country, such as holding a national reconciliation dialogue which ended in January after a 10-month debate.

IANS