Gunmen kidnapped an American in the Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday, local government and military officials said, with one suggesting the man was taken by his own guards who had links to a pirate gang.

Abdullahi Qarshi, the top security official in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region said the hostage was American. Residents close to the militia group that abducted the man said he was an American national who also held a German passport.

Gunmen kidnapped the foreigner and we understand they took him to Hobyo, Abshir Dini, interior minister of the semi-autonomous region, told Reuters, referring to a coastal town that is a known pirate base.

Kidnappings are relatively common in the anarchic Horn of Africa country, considered among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, aid workers and private contractors to work in.

In October, an armed gang abducted an American and a Dane working for the Danish Demining Group in Galkayo, which straddles the border of Galmudug and another semi-autonomous region, Puntland.

Colonel Mohamed Hussein, a senior military official, said the hostage had been part of a two-man group who had been in the region under the pretext of being journalists, but that their exact mission was unclear.

He was kidnapped by his own guards. We understand the clan militia have a link with a pirate leader in Haradheere, Hussein said, in reference to a second pirate lair just south of Hobyo.

The other man, Hussein said, had flown to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Neither had contacted local officials about security when they arrived, he said.

(Writing by Richard Lough; editing by Elizabeth Piper)