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Yemen tribesmen kidnap nine truck drivers: source

ADEN (Reuters) - Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped five Syrian and four Yemeni truck drivers on Monday to pressure the government to release their jailed kinsmen, a security source said.

Yemen is trying to restore law and order after an uprising which forced veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from office in February.

The Sabbeiha tribesmen seized the nine truck drivers as they passed through Lahej province in south Yemen, while travelling from Aden to Hodayda on the Red Sea coast, said the source, a security official in Lahej.

The captors are demanding the release of 13 tribesmen arrested after clashes with security forces over land disputes.

Restoring stability to the Arabian Peninsula state has become an international priority due to fears that al Qaeda and other Islamist militants could become entrenched in a country which neighbors oil producer Saudi Arabia and lies on major shipping lanes.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has made its base in the impoverished state, has mounted operations in neighboring Saudi Arabia as well as attempting to launch attacks against the United States.

The Yemeni army this year drove al Qaeda militants out of several southern towns they had held for more than a year, in a U.S.-backed drive, but militants have struck back with assassinations and suicide attacks against security officials.

Tribesmen have previously kidnapped foreigners in an effort to pressure central government over disputes. An Italian was kidnapped in the capital Sanaa this year but later released.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Pravin Char)

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