SANAA - Nine foreigners, mostly women and children, including seven Germans, a British engineer and a South Korean woman teacher, have been kidnapped by Shiite rebels in Yemen, officials said.
The group were seized in the restive Saada region of north Yemen by rebels who have been fighting the government in Sanaa for five years, said a local authority official, cited by the defence ministry news website September Net.
The German group includes a couple, three children and two women nurses, according to the official, who did not say when they were taken hostage.
They belong to an international organisation which has been working at a hospital in Saada for the past 35 years, the official said.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
The official said they were taken hostage by members of the Huthi Zaidi rebel group which have been fighting the government since 2004.
Tribesmen often use kidnapping to twist the government's arm in local disputes. More than 200 foreigners have been abducted over the past 15 years, but in all the cases, the hostages have been freed unharmed,
The exception was for three Britons and an Australian seized by militants in December 1998 who were killed when security forces stormed the kidnappers' hideout.
The government and Huthi rebels signed a Qatari-brokered peace deal last June but there has been repeated wrangling about its implementation.
The insurgents are known as Huthis after their late commander, Hussein Badr Eddin al-Huthi, who was killed by the army in September 2004. Hussein was succeeded as field commander by his brother Abdul Malak.
Shiite Zaidis are a minority in the mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority in the northwest.