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Published: Sunday February 2, 2014 MYT 9:00:02 PM
Updated: Sunday February 2, 2014 MYT 9:05:59 PM

Yemen tribesmen say seize German to push for relatives' release

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni tribesmen said on Sunday they had kidnapped a German man to press their government to free jailed relatives, underscoring the breakdown in security in the Western-allied country.

Tribesmen telephoned journalists to say the man, who was kidnapped from Sanaa on Friday, was being held by them in Maarib province, a tribal stronghold in the centre of Yemen.

They said they were demanding the release of two relatives who they said were being held without charge.

Yemeni state news agency Saba said Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi briefed the German charge d'affaires on the government's efforts to ensure the safe release of the hostage and to bring his kidnappers to justice.

"The foreign minister expressed regret over these practices which harm Yemenis and damage the reputation and interests of Yemenis," Saba said.

A spokeswoman for Germany's Foreign Ministry said: "We are aware of the reports. The emergency task force has been alerted and, together with the embassy in Sanaa and the Yemeni authorities, it is urgently trying to resolve (the matter)."

The German embassy in Sanaa said it was checking the report.

Kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen is common. The U.S. ally, with a population of 25 million, is trying to overcome nearly three years of political turmoil which began when mass protests erupted in 2011 against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33 years in office. Saleh has since stepped down.

Most kidnappings end peacefully with the hostages being freed unharmed.

Yemen is also grappling with an emboldened threat from one of the most active wings of al Qaeda that has killed hundreds of people in a series of attacks on state facilities, including military camps, over the past two years.

Al Qaeda-linked militants are also holding a South African citizen, identified as Pierre Korkie, demanding a ransom.

The militants released his wife Yolande, who was seized at the same time in mid-2013, in January. South Africa said it was sending a top diplomat to negotiate the release of Korkie after the militants threatened to kill him if they did not receive $3 million in ransom.

(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Mike Collett-White)

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