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U.S. couple taken hostage in Yemen released

SANAA (Reuters) - Two U.S. citizens, a husband and wife, taken hostage by Yemeni tribesmen were released on Tuesday a day after they were seized near the capital Sanaa, a Yemeni government official said.

"The Americans have been freed and handed over to the mediation committee," the official told Reuters.

Armed Yemeni tribesmen had kidnapped the two U.S. tourists near Sanaa on Monday and were demanding the release of a relative jailed over a land dispute that was before the courts.

One official said pressure on the kidnappers led to the release. Authorities had set up road blocks and arrested dozens of members of the kidnappers' kin to pressure the abductors.

Another official told Reuters that authorities had promised to look into the kidnappers' demand.

Yemen, bordering the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, surged to the forefront of Western security concerns after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Kidnappings of foreigners and Yemenis are common in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, where hostages are often used by disgruntled tribesmen to press demands on authorities.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Firouz Sedarat; editing by Myra MacDonald)

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