SANAA - The Japanese engineer kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen earlier this month is not being held by Al-Qaeda, the Japanese embassy in Yemen said on Monday.
"He is still in the same place" being held by the tribesmen, "not in the hands of Al-Qaeda," Aki Yami, the embassy's first secretary in charge of politics and economics told AFP.
On Saturday, a tribal source said Al-Qaeda gunmen had seized the engineer and taken him to an unknown destination in the Maarib region east of Sanaa.
But a Yemeni official on Sunday denied tribal claims that Al-Qaeda has taken charge of the hostage, who was kidnapped near the capital on November 15.
"Reports that Al-Qaeda have seized the hostage and removed him to another province are unfounded," the defence ministry's website quoted Numan Duid, governor of Sanaa province, as saying.
Yami said the embassy is in "close contact" with the Yemeni government and security services regarding the status of the engineer, identified by Japanese media as 63-year-old Takeo Mashimo.
But the embassy official refused to comment on specific efforts underway to secure Mashimo's release, saying only that such efforts are being handled by Yemeni authorities.
Yami said the embassy is not directly in contact with the tribesmen. "They want to talk with the Yemeni authorities, not with Japan," he said.
Mashimo was kidnapped in Arhab, northeast of Sanaa, by tribesmen seeking to exchange him for one of their relatives being held by police.