Yemeni journalist kidnapped by gunmen

Three unidentified gunmen kidnap a Yemeni freelance journalist, specialising in reporting on al Qa'eda, on a street in the capital.

SANA'A, // Three unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Yemeni freelance journalist specialising in reporting on al Qa'eda on a street in the capital late yesterday, an eyewitness said. Abdulelah Shai was outside a Chinese restaurant in Sanaa when three armed men jumped out of a car and forced him to get into the vehicle which then sped off, Yemeni journalist Kamal Sharaf, who was with Mr Shai at the time, said.

Police opened an investigation into the abduction but did not say who they thought was responsible. Yemen's Journalist Syndicate said the kidnappers might be tribesmen angered by Mr Shai's reporting on the relationship of some tribes with the Yemeni wing of the militant group al Qa'eda. Analysts say al Qa'eda members, many of whom are holed up in Yemen's most impenetrable mountains and deserts, often receive protection from local tribes.

"We don't know for certain who is behind the incident but we fear it could be a tribal group ... because of his analysis of the tribes' sympathy for al Qa'eda. That is why his life is in danger," a Syndicate member said. Yemen, which borders top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, leapt to the forefront of Western security concerns after a Yemen-based regional wing of al Qa'eda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a US-bound airliner in December.

The conflict between the impoverished country's government and al Qa'eda is intensifying, and tribes are increasingly drawn into the fighting. In June, the Yemeni army shelled militant targets and fought gun battles in the al Qa'eda stronghold of Wadi Obeida in Maarib province, the source of much of the country's oil. Tensions in Maarib had been high since its deputy governor, who was mediating between the authorities and al Qa'eda, was killed in May in an air strike aimed at the militant group, prompting his angry kinsmen to attack an oil pipeline.

Earlier on Sunday, al Qa'eda claimed responsibility for an attack last month on the southern headquarters of a Yemeni intelligence agency in which 11 people died, saying it was a response to a state crackdown on its members in Maarib. * Reuters