DUBAI: Yemeni tribesmen agreed yesterday to vacate the Interior Ministry after storming it the day before in a protest for jobs, an official said — an incident that highlighted the ongoing turmoil in a country where Al-Qaeda militancy has alarmed world powers.
In another indication of instability in the Arabian Peninsula country, an Italian embassy security officer was kidnapped on Sunday. The Yemeni government said the hunt for the abductors had begun.
The country is struggling to establish order following the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February after a year of Arab Spring protests against his rule.
An Interior Ministry source said it had persuaded the 100 tribesmen, seen as loyal to the former president Saleh, to vacate the Interior Ministry in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. The tribesmen were demanding to be enlisted in the police force.
“The president formed a committee to negotiate,” the source said, referring to the country’s leader Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
“They were persuaded to end the occupation in return for a promise to respond to their demands.” The Italian security officer was kidnapped near his country’s embassy in Sanaa. A spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome said the man was a member of the country’s Carabinieri military police.
In a phone call with his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr Al-Qirbi said the hunt for the abductors had begun, state news agency Saba said late on Sunday. It said nothing about identity of the kidnappers.
The abduction followed the kidnapping in March of the Saudi deputy consul in Yemen’s port city of Aden, Abdallah Al-Khalidi, by Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The kidnappers have demanded the release of women detainees held in Saudi prisons.
During the uprising that toppled Saleh, militants associated with Al-Qaeda strengthened their position in areas of south and east Yemen, placing further tests on the central government control in a country where tribalism and regionalism run strong.
Tribesmen often kidnap foreigners and bomb oil and gas pipelines as a way to press demands on authorities.
Also on Monday, Yemen delivered its first oil shipment from the Maarib pipeline to its Aden refinery after a nine-month halt because of tribal attacks that left Yemen relying on imports and Saudi fuel donations, a refinery official told Reuters.
Yemen’s location next to leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia and astride key world shipping routes has heightened regional and Western concern over the country’s security situation.
The disorder has alarmed the United States, a backer of Saleh who has sought to ensure that his successor makes fighting Al-Qaeda his priority. Yemen now ranks alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan for US policymakers concerned with the spread of Al-Qaeda networks.
Yemen’s army has taken back some towns from militants, who struck back with suicide bombings in Sanaa, while Washington has stepped up a campaign of assassinations using manless drones operated by the CIA.