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Iran

Armed men kidnap Iranian embassy employee in Yemen

An employee of the Iranian embassy in Yemen has been abducted by armed men. Various groups have been known to take hostages to manipulate Yemeni officials, but it was unclear who kidnapped the Iranian national.

A general view shows the Yemeni capital Sanaa's Old City on January 15, 2010. An air strike on an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) position in north Yemen killed six suspected leaders of the group including its military boss, a senior Yemeni official said. The military chief, Qassem al-Rimi, was among 23 people who made a daring escape from a state security prison in Sanaa in February 2006 that left the government red-faced. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Bildergalerie Jemen Sanaa Altstadt

Unidentified gunmen reportedly halted an Iranian as he was driving in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Sunday, forcing him to exit his vehicle and enter theirs, according to authorities.

"A search is under way to locate [the embassy employee]," they said.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry later confirmed the report, according to Iran's ISNA news agency. Officials also confirmed he was an Iranian citizen named Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, but did not provide his age.

Neither the identity of the group behind the abduction nor its motive was immediately clear.

Yemen has been battling nationwide instability since the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2011. In addition to political and economic uncertainty, the country faces a rise in violence, sometimes from fighters linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In March 2012, militants linked to AQAP took hostage a Saudi Arabian diplomat based in the Yemeni port city of Aden.

Other motives behind kidnappings in Yemen often stem from tribesmen seeking the release of a relative from prison or demanding changes from the government.

The Iranian government under outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appeared to back a separatist movement in southern Yemen. US and Yemeni officials seized an Iranian arms shipment off the coast in March of this year.

kms/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)