Gunmen abduct Iranian embassy worker in Yemeni capital

SANAA (Reuters) - Armed men kidnapped an employee of the Iranian embassy in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Sunday, police sources said, the latest in a series of abductions of foreigners in the lawless Arab country.

The Iranian man was travelling through the diplomatic quarter in southern Sanaa when gunmen blocked the road, forced him to get out of his vehicle and took him to an unknown location, the sources told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the kidnapping, they said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry confirmed that member of its embassy's administrative staff in Sanaa named Nour Ahmad Nikbakht has been kidnapped, the ISNA news agency reported, quoting a ministry spokesman.

Yemen's government is grappling with a host of challenges, including a separatist movement in the south and an Islamist insurgency, as it tries to restore authority lost during mass protests in 2011 that overthrew the veteran president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Disgruntled tribesmen also often take hostages to press the government to free jailed relatives or improve public services.

A Saudi diplomat based in Yemen's southern port city of Aden has been held hostage by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda since March 2012.

In a separate incident, an instructor in Yemen's military academy was killed by a bomb placed under his car in Sanaa on Sunday, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said on its website.

It said Brigadier General Abdullah Hussein al-Mehdar had been killed instantly.

At least 70 military and security officials have been killed since 2011, and many of the attacks have been attributed to militants linked to al Qaeda.

Also on Sunday, a local official in the southerly Baida'a governorate was shot dead outside his house by gunmen suspected of being linked to al Qaeda, security sources told Reuters.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa and Marcus George in Dubai; Writing by Sami Aboudi and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)