Old City in Sanaa, Yemen
In Yemen an unknown gunmen kidnapped on Sunday an Italian embassy security agent in Sanaa, whose Old City is pictured in 2010. © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP/File
Old City in Sanaa, Yemen
Last updated: July 29, 2012

Gunmen kidnap Italian embassy security agent in Yemen

Unknown gunmen kidnapped on Sunday an Italian embassy security agent in Sanaa, a Western diplomat and a Yemeni security official said.

The man was taken hostage from a street close to the mission in Hadda neighbourhood in southwestern Sanaa, the diplomat said, requesting anonymity.

A security official in Sanaa confirmed to AFP that an Italian man was kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination. Police were working to identify and track the kidnappers, he said.

In Rome, a foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the kidnapping.

"We confirm that an Italian citizen working as a security agent at the embassy has been kidnapped," a ministry press officer said.

"The foreign ministry's crisis unit has been activated and is co-ordinating efforts for his release. We cannot supply any more information at this time, for risk of compromising rescue efforts," he said.

Italian news agency ANSA later cited officials as saying the man is a member of Italy's Carabinieri military police force. It also said he was picked up while in civilian clothes in a shop near the embassy.

Contacted by AFP, the ministry declined to comment on the report.

Foreigners are frequently kidnapped in Yemen by armed tribesmen, who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities.

More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years. The majority have been freed alive and well.

A French staffer with the International Committee of the Red Cross who was kidnapped in April in the northern port city of Hudaida was released earlier this month unharmed.

But a Swiss woman kidnapped by Al-Qaeda militants in March, also from Hudaida, remains a hostage.

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