Gunmen kidnapped Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, chief of staff to Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, and his two guards in capital Sanaa on Saturday, security officials said, according to media reports. Mubarak was also the first choice for the post of prime minister last October, but his nomination was derailed after Houthis opposed the move.
The trio was reportedly abducted from their car in central part of the city. But, there have not been any demands for ransom so far. Officials suspect that the gunmen were Shiite Houthi rebels, who have taken control of large parts of Yemen, including Sanaa, amid a continuing power struggle with the country’s president, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The abduction was reportedly conducted to prevent Mubarak from presenting a draft of a new constitution to a presidential meeting, police officials told Reuters. Yemen has been struggling with intensifying violence amid a political turmoil over creating a new government.
"An armed group set up a checkpoint in Hada," a southern district of Sanaa, and "captured (Ahmed Awad bin) Mubarak with his companions," an official from the national dialogue secretariat told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Mubarak is secretary general of the national dialogue set up to oversee the political transition following the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, AFP reported.
Earlier in December, Maj. Gen. Yehia al-Marani, a senior Yemeni intelligence official, was also kidnapped by suspected Houthis in Sanaa.
Houthis have been demanding more rights for Yemen’s Zaydi Shiite Muslim sect, according to Reuters. The group also started moving in to central and western parts of the country, which have been dominated by the Sunni Muslim community. While critics say they are a proxy for the Shiite Iran, the group denies these accusations.