The ancient old city within the heart of Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, is pictured in August 2010.

Story highlights

German language student abducted on Saturday night in Sanaa's old city

Armed tribesmen believed to be behind latest kidnapping

Kidnapping foreigners to use as bargaining chips has been a problem in Yemen

Dozens dead in clashes in northern Yemen

Sanaa, Yemen CNN  — 

Armed tribesmen kidnapped a German national in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Saturday night, officials said Sunday.

The German was studying Arabic at a language center in the old city of Sanaa.

“He was on his way home in the Safia districts of the capital when he was snatched from the street and most likely taken to the central province of Mareb,” an Interior Ministry official told CNN.

“Efforts are ongoing to ensure the safe release of the German national,” said Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi.

Kidnapping has long been a problem in Yemen, with tribes often using foreign nationals as bargaining chips in their dealings with the central government. But the past 24 months have proven even more dangerous for foreigners.

Map of Yemen

Strict checkpoints have been in place in Sanaa since Thursday night.

The official blamed tribal militants for being behind the kidnapping but would not rule out the possibility of al Qaeda involvement.

Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, believed by many analysts to be the most dangerous affiliate of the terror network.

Over the last six months, nine foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen, mainly by militants who have turned to kidnapping for huge financial gains.

On Friday, rebels battling for control of northern Yemen clashed against tribesmen, leaving dozens dead in fighting just miles from the country’s capital.

At least 42 people were killed and more than a dozen injured in clashes between Houthi Shiite militants and fighters from the Sunni Hashid tribe in Amran province, which is seen as a linchpin to controlling the region, according to two security officials and a local tribal leader.

The reports of fighting come as cease-fire negotiations are under way to put an end to the fighting that has plagued Yemen for months, spurred in part by a power vacuum left by the departure of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

CNN’s Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report