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Published: Sunday February 2, 2014 MYT 10:30:02 PM
Updated: Sunday February 2, 2014 MYT 10:30:53 PM

Yemeni official says kidnapped Iranian diplomat still alive

SANAA/DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian embassy official kidnapped in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in July is still alive, a Yemeni security official said on Sunday, disputing an earlier report that he had been found beheaded.

Last month a provincial official said local people had found the body of the diplomat in an area north of oil fields in Maarib province.

At the time Iran's Student News Agency quoted an Iranian embassy official as denying that the headless body belonged to the missing employee.

On Sunday a Yemeni security official who declined to be named told Reuters:

"Contacts with the Iranian diplomat's kidnappers through tribal mediators confirm that he (the diplomat) is still alive and that the body found did not belong to him," the security official told Reuters.

Iran's official IRNA news agency on Sunday quoted Yemen's charge d'affaires in Tehran, Abdullah al-Sari, as saying:

"Yemen's interior ministry and security forces are following up on the fate of kidnapped Iranian diplomat, Noor Ahmad Nikbakht, and according to latest information he is alive and in good health," Sari told IRNA.

He added: "Our security forces are looking for ways to help and secure his release. We hope good news on this will be announced soon."

Last month, another Iranian diplomat was fatally wounded when he resisted gunmen who tried to kidnap him. Shi'ite Iran's diplomatic missions in the Arab world have sometimes been targeted as sectarian violence spreads in the region.

Kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are common, often carried out by disgruntled tribesmen seeking to put pressure on the government to free jailed relatives or to improve public services, or by al Qaeda-linked militants.

On Sunday Yemeni tribesman said they had kidnapped a German man to press their government to free jailed relatives.

(Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari in Sanaa and Mehrdad Balali in Dubai; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Sami Aboudi)

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