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Gunmen kidnap Iranian diplomat in Yemen capital

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AHMED AL-HAJ | July 21, 2013 03:56 PM EST | AP

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SANAA, Yemen — Gunmen on Sunday kidnapped an Iranian diplomat who was driving his car in the capital, Sanaa, a Yemeni official said. Iran condemned the abduction.

The official said armed men stopped the diplomat's car and forced him into their vehicle before speeding away. He did not disclose the diplomat's name or any further details, saying the incident is under investigation.

The official said traffic at the time of the kidnapping was light.

In Tehran, a Yemeni diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive a formal protest, Iranian state TV reported. It said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called his Yemeni counterpart.

Salehi condemned the kidnapping and called for serious action by Yemeni government to free the Iranian diplomat, the TV report said, without identifying him.

Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has demanded in the past that Iran's leadership stop meddling in his country, a warning repeated by Washington. Yemeni officials have seized weapons caches they say were exported from Iran and aimed at destabilizing their country.

In another incident, officials said gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a local official in the central province of Bayda, where al-Qaida militants are active. The official was outside his house when he was shot twice in the head. One of his children was wounded, according to security officials.

Hadi has warned that the al-Qaida branch in the country is using assassinations and abductions of foreigners as a way to challenge the central government's authority. The United States considers the Yemen branch to be al-Qaida's most active and dangerous.

In the capital, Sanaa, Brig. Gen. Abdullah Hussein el-Muhdar was killed by a bomb attached to his car outside his home, according to a Defense Ministry statement. Officials said they suspect loyalists of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh could be behind his killing.

All officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.