Kidnapped U.N. workers are freed in Yemen

Story highlights

  • Kidnappers detained hours after the abduction, officials say
  • The incident took place in one of the safest areas in Sanaa
  • Kidnapping foreigners to use as bargaining chips has been a problem in Yemen
Two hostages working for the United Nations were freed hours after they were taken in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday, an official told CNN.
The senior Interior Ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.
The Ministry released a statement announcing the hostage incident in Sanaa "has ended after Yemeni forces freed an Italian national.
"The kidnappers were detained by the authorities," it said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear why the Ministry statement only mentioned one hostage, but the official said one was Italian and one was Yemeni-Italian.
The incident took place in Hadda district, considered one of the safest and heavy guarded areas in Sanaa, on Tuesday evening.
"The militants were able to escape, but security checkpoints throughout the capital have been alerted," the senior Interior Ministry official told CNN earlier.
"Local council officials in Sanaa have also been asked to inform residents in their areas and keep watch within Sanaa neighborhoods in case the kidnappers choose to hide within Sanaa."
A U.N. official, declining to be named, confirmed the kidnapping of the employees to CNN. No further details were immediately available.
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.
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 few months, several foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen, mainly by militants who have turned to kidnapping for huge financial gains.