SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Gunmen loyal to ousted Yemeni ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh seized a security building near the Interior Ministry in the capital for a few hours on Sunday before vacating it, a security official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said a former security official and a relative of Saleh dispatched the gunmen. After taking over the building in Sanaa, they blocked off the airport highway along which it is located.
Saleh, Yemen’s ruler for over 30 years, transferred power to a newly elected president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in February after a yearlong uprising, as part of a US brokered deal that gave him immunity from prosecution if he relinquished power.
Over the past months, tens of thousands of protesters have continued to hold demonstrations against the deal.
Many believe Saleh’s immunity has given him a free hand to hinder the new president’s efforts and retain control of the country through a network of relatives and loyalists in security and military positions.
In Yemen’s volatile south, lack of state authority has prompted fears of a comeback by al-Qaida militants in several cities and towns they had seized amid a security vacuum during an uprising last year. The military drove out the militants in a broad offensive starting in May, but police have not returned in full force.
On Sunday, gunmen kidnapped an Italian embassy guard as he walked on the street near the mission’s building in the capital Sanaa, an interior ministry official in Yemen. In Rome, the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping and said officials were working to secure the guard’s release.
The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Kidnaping foreigners is not uncommon in Yemen, an impoverished Arab nation. Almost all of the kidnappings are carried out by tribesmen who use the captives as bargaining chips to force authorities to provide their areas with services and jobs. They mostly end with the release of the hostages unharmed.
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