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Published: Sunday February 2, 2014 MYT 6:50:02 PM
Updated: Sunday February 2, 2014 MYT 6:50:52 PM

Yemen tribesmen say seize German to push for relatives' release

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni tribesman said on Sunday they had kidnapped a German man to press their government to free jailed relatives, in the latest incident that underscores the increasing breakdown in security in the Western-allied country.

Tribesmen telephoned journalists to say they kidnapped the man from the capital Sanaa and took him to Maarib, 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.

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.-allied country 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 often 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, and his wife Yolande, who were seized in mid-2013, demanding a ransom.

The militants released Yolande 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 (1 million pounds) in ransom.

(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Alison Williams)

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