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Kidnapped UN worker and driver freed in Yemen

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Kidnapped UN worker and driver freed in Yemen

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Security forces in Yemen have freed an Italian UN employee and his Yemeni driver, hours after they were seized by armed men in a diplomatic district of the capital.

Authorities say the pair were found on the outskirts of Sanaa and that their captors have been arrested.

Kidnapping is common in the US-allied Yemen, where the government is struggling to contain an insurgency from Islamists linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement, fighting in the country’s north and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes.

Hostage-taking is sometimes carried out by militants aiming to intimidate Westerners, but is also used as a tactic by tribesmen to resolve disputes with the government, and by opportunists hoping to sell hostages on to other groups.

Three foreigners – a Czech doctor, a British oil worker and a German – were seized in February. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, which borders oil giant Saudi Arabia, has long wrestled with instability, internal conflicts and poor governance.

The United States, along with some other Western and Gulf countries, is working with an interim government to effect a political transition after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from office in 2012 by street protests.