Yemen tribesmen release Italian officer: official

SANAA Thu Aug 2, 2012 5:52pm EDT

Police troopers guard outside the Italian embassy in Sanaa July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Police troopers guard outside the Italian embassy in Sanaa July 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah

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SANAA (Reuters) - An Italian embassy security officer kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen has been released unharmed, a government official said on Thursday, the same day the country's information minister survived an assassination attempt.

The incidents highlight continuing instability in Yemen five months after former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was formally replaced by his deputy under a plan designed to forestall a slide into lawlessness.

During the uprising that toppled Saleh, militants associated with al Qaeda strengthened their position in areas of south and east Yemen, further testing central government control in a country riven with tribalism and regionalism.

"The Italian diplomat was handed over to the governor of Maarib and he is in good health and will be transferred to Sanaa later to be handed over to the Italian ambassador," the official told Reuters.

The abductors who detained the security officer in the oil-producing province of Maarib had demanded to be compensated for the detention of one of their relatives and the return of land they say they own in the capital Sanaa, a tribal source said, adding they were promised their demands will be met.

In a further sign of lawlessness in the Arabian Peninsula country, the Information Minister survived an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on his car in the capital Sanaa, a government source said.

The minister was not harmed but two of his aides were wounded.

Yemen's location beside leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia and astride key world shipping routes has heightened regional and Western concern over its security problems.

Yemen ranks alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan for U.S. policymakers concerned with the spread of al Qaeda networks.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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