SANAA, July 21: Gunmen suspected of being members of Al Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in broad daylight on Sunday in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, police said.

“An Iranian diplomat was abducted on Sunday in Sanaa by armed men,” a Yemeni security source said, adding that the envoy was “taken to an unknown destination”.

Police said a search was under way to try to locate the man who was snatched in the street near the embassy in the southern Hadda district of the city.

In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told the ISNA news agency that “one of the administrative staff members of the Iranian Embassy in Yemen has been abducted by an unknown group”.

“This person is Iranian,” Araqchi confirmed, naming him as Nour-Ahmad Nikbakht. Iranian media said Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had telephoned his Yemeni counterpart Abu Bakr al-Kurbi to say Tehran “condemned this inhumane act and urged the Yemen government to take serious action to release the diplomat”.

The reports also said that Yemen’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry in Tehran to hear “serious concerns regarding the fate of its diplomat”.

It was the first time an Iranian is known to be the victim of a kidnapping in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

The abduction comes at a time of tensions between Yemen and Iran, which has been accused by Sanaa of aiding rebels in north Yemen.

ISNA quoted an embassy source as saying there was no information about the kidnappers, and that a witness to the abduction had told the embassy about it.

“There are suspicions that Al Qaeda is behind the kidnapping,” a Yemeni security officer said, although the police official said the kidnappers’ identities were not known.

Militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the network’s deadliest branch according to the US, have also been holding Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul in Aden, Abdullah al-Khalidi, since March 2012.—AFP

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