Yemeni tribesmen have kidnapped nine members of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces in the country’s western coast, according to a local military source on Tuesday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said soldiers from the so-called National Resistance Forces (NRF), a faction backed by the UAE, were held by gunmen from the Sabiha tribes in western Yemen.

The NRF is led by Tariq Saleh, a nephew of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The source said the abduction was in response to the arrest of two tribesmen by NRF forces on allegations of espionage.

There was no comment from the NRF on the report.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the Sabiha tribes warned the NRF of what he called “playing with fire”, saying the tribes “would not stand idly by” to the arrests.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in March 2015 after Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara

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