DUBAI : The UN said a Sierra Leonean water engineer working in Yemen on a sanitation project had been freed more than a year after being kidnapped by unidentified armed men.

‘Colleagues at the UN are delighted that James Massaquoi, who was abducted in Yemen in October 2013, has today been released and is safe and well,’ said a UN statement dated Nov 8. ‘James is a water engineer who has been working in Yemen to help provide water and sanitation services in order to improve the health of local children,’ it said, adding the world body thanked the Yemeni govt and tribal leaders who it said had ‘supported efforts to bring about his safe release’.

The UN Children's Fund said he was kidnapped in the capital Sanaa on Sunday Oct. 6, 2013 ‘by unknown armed men’. Kidnapping is common in US-allied Yemen, where the govt is struggling to contain an insurgency from Islamists linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement, fighting in the country's north and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes.

Hostage-taking is sometimes carried out by militants specifically targeting Westerners, but is also used as a tactic by tribesmen to resolve disputes with the government, and by opportunists hoping to sell hostages on to other groups.