Norwegian UN Worker Kidnapped In Yemen

Published January 15, 2012 4:36PM (EST)

SANAA, Yemen — A Norwegian man who was working for the United Nations was kidnapped by armed tribesmen in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Sunday, officials said.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ford Overland Andersen said the ministry was informed the 34-year-old Norwegian man was abducted early Sunday, but would not give more details.

According to a Yemeni security official, the U.N. worker was kidnapped in the capital Sanaa by armed tribesmen who transferred him to central Marabou province, 110 miles (170 kilometers) east of the capital.

The official said the U.N. worker was taken hostage by the Abide Marabou tribe. They were demanding the release of a tribesman who was arrested on charges of killing four soldiers assigned to guarding oil tankers.

Also Sunday, a Yemeni military official said al-Qaida militants executed two soldiers.

He said that the soldiers were abducted two months ago while fighting al-Qaida militants west of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan province. The official said the bodies of the soldiers were found in the country's south.

Both Yemeni officials both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Al-Qaida's dangerous Yemen branch has been taking advantage of nearly a year of internal turmoil over demands that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down to take control of areas in Yemen's south.

Islamist militants began seizing territory in the southern Abyan province last spring, solidifying their control over the town of Jaar in April before taking the provincial capital, Zinjibar, in May.

Yemeni security forces have been trying unsuccessfully to push them out since then in fierce fighting that has caused many casualties on both sides. The conflict has forced tens of thousands of civilians from Zinjibar and the surrounding area to flee, many to the port city of Aden.

Some made their first efforts to return last month, staging two marches from Aden. Both times, militants turned them back, saying the city was not safe.

By Salon Staff

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