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A Yemeni man pastes a sticker on his traditional al-Janbiah dagger. (File photo) AP/Press Association Images

Masked gunmen have captured the Yemeni president's chief of staff

The abductors are believed to be Shiite militiamen.

GUNMEN HAVE SEIZED the chief of staff of the Yemeni president.

President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi’s nomination as prime minister last year was rejected by Shiite militiamen controlling the capital Sana’a.

“An armed group set up a checkpoint in Hada,” a southern district of Sana’a, and “captured (Ahmed Awad bin) Mubarak with his companions,” according to an official from the national dialogue secretariat.

Mubarak is secretary general of the national dialogue on a political transition following the 2012 resignation of veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh after a bloody year-long uprising.

The senior politician was “driven away to an unknown location,” the official said, adding that the abductors “are suspected of being (Shiite) Huthi militiamen”.

Yemen has been dogged by instability since Saleh’s ouster, with the Huthis and Al-Qaeda seeking to fill the power vacuum.

Mubarak, a southerner, was one of the representatives in the dialogue of the Southern Movement, which seeks autonomy or secession for the formerly independent south.

Hadi appointed him as prime minister in October, but Mubarak turned down the job following strong opposition by Huthi fighters who overran Sanaa on 21 September, and by Saleh’s General People’s Congress Party.

The Huthis are widely believed to be backed by Saleh.

The UN Security Council in November slapped sanctions — including a visa ban and asset freeze — on Saleh and two rebel commanders for threatening peace.

The turmoil has raised fears that Yemen, which neighbours oil-rich Saudi Arabia and lies on the key shipping route from the Suez Canal to the Gulf, may become a failed state similar to Somalia.

© – AFP 2015

Read: Al Qaeda in Yemen claims responsibility for Charlie Hebdo attack >

Read: At least 30 dead as car bomb explodes outside police academy >

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