Kidnapped U.N. staff freed in Yemen

Yemeni troops freed an Italian U.N. staffer and his driver, hours after they were abducted

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Yemeni troops freed an Italian U.N. staffer and his driver on Tuesday shortly after they were kidnapped by gunmen earlier on Tuesday in the capital Sanaa.

The kidnappers were tracked to a house where they were holding the victims, police sources told Reuters.

The Italian U.N. Development Programme employee was "in good" health" after his ordeal, the latest in a spate of abductions of Westerners in Yemen in recent months, a ministry official told Agence France-Presse.

The kidnappers were stopped at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sanaa where they were arrested and the hostages freed, the official said.

He did not elaborate on the kidnappers' identity or motives.

The Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome confirmed that an Italian citizen working for the United Nations Development Program had been released but provided no details.

The Yemeni Defense ministry said in a statement to journalists that troops freed the Italian from his kidnappers in northeastern Marib province. He had been taken there after being abducted in a main street in Sanaa.

Since Jan. 31, three Europeans have been kidnapped. The most recent of them -- a British teacher -- was seized in Sanaa last month.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, the vast majority of them by disgruntled tribesmen who use the hostages as bargaining chips with the central government.

Nearly all of them have been freed unharmed after short periods of captivity

(with AFP and AP)

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