American held in Yemen's rebel-held capital: witnesses

Yemeni soldiers search cars at a checkpoint as authorities tighten up security measures in the capital Sanaa on September 20, 2016 (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais) (AFP)

Sanaa (AFP) - Gunmen posing as security forces on Tuesday detained a US national in the Yemeni capital where he runs an English-language school, witnesses said.

A dozen men dressed as members of the Huthi rebels' "national security service" appeared at the Exceed Language Center in the afternoon, according to students.

Three of the gunmen, who were masked and brandishing automatic weapons, headed to the principal's office, before escorting the American to their vehicle.

The man who was only identified by his first name, Peter, was taken away to an unknown location.

The Exceed Language Center is located Algiers Street in the western part of the Yemeni capital.

Its website lists only one staff member with the same given name -- Peter Willems who is identified as the school's director.

His seizure caused panic among the students, one of them said on condition of anonymity.

The same source said the gunmen belonged to the "national security service" of the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who overran the Yemeni capital two years ago.

They gave no reason for detaining him.