Gunmen have abducted Saudi Arabia's deputy consul from outside his residence in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, a Yemeni security official has said.
Police in the city's Mansoura district said on Wednesday that armed men abducted Abdallah al-Khalidi as he was about to get into his car, and sped off with him in another vehicle.
"Abdullah al-Khalidi was kidnapped while leaving his home in the Mansoura neighbourhood of Aden," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"He has some personal conflicts with people in Aden"
- Yemeni police official
He said police had launched an investigation into the kidnapping. "He was taken to an unknown location and we are searching from him," he said.
Saudi officials have confirmed the attack.
"It happened this morning. The embassy already contacted the highest security authority in Yemen. They are investigating and trying to find out the reason," a Saudi foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters news agency, also requesting anonymity.
Another Yemeni police official told AFP news agency that Khalidi's abduction was not politically motivated.
"He has some personal conflicts with people in Aden," the official said, adding that in recent months, the deputy consul had been threatened and unknown assailants had even "thrown a grenade at his home in Aden".
The official did not give further details.
Mohammed Al Qadhi, a journalist at Yemen's national newspaper, The National, said, "We are told that this is not the first time that Khalidi was harassed. About three or four months ago he was harassed by some gunmen who snatched his car and also his belongings while he was driving in the city of Aden."
Khalidi was unharmed in the incident.
He is the third Saudi national to be kidnapped in Yemen in as many years. In April 2011, tribesmen kidnapped a Saudi diplomat in the capital Sanaa in an apparent bid to settle a trade dispute involving a Saudi businessman.
Saeed al-Maliki, a second secretary at the Saudi embassy, was released nine days later.
In November 2010, gunmen kidnapped a Saudi doctor in north Yemen and demanded the release of nine jailed members of al-Qaeda.
Dhafer al-Shihri, the 48-year-old acting head of Al-Salam Hospital in Saada city was released the same day after tribal mediation.
Saudi Arabia has played a crucial role in the power-transition deal that forced former president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power after a year-long uprising against his rule.
The kingdom is also a key donor to the impoverished country.
Aden borders Yemen's southern Abyan province, where fighters reported to be linked to al-Qaeda have exploited the position of the weakening central government in Sanaa to strengthen their presence in the country.
A string of security officials have been killed in recent months in southern Yemen, where an Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda has seized territory and claimed responsibility for attacks on Yemeni troops and a US security team last month.
The US says the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the most active and deadly branch of the global network.
Since last May, the group has increased its control over several towns and villages in the south, including Abyan's capital Zinjibar.
Abductions are common in Yemen, frequently in the context of regional or tribal disputes with Yemeni authorities. The victims are sometimes held for ransom, particularly if they are foreigners.
More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years, many of them by members of the country's powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|