SANAA (Reuters/AFP) - About 100 armed tribesmen loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the Interior Ministry building in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sunday demanding to be enlisted in the police force, an official said.

The tribesmen briefly held some employees hostage before freeing them a few hours later, the Interior Ministry official said.

Sunday’s showdown highlighted the continuing turmoil in the country despite a peace deal under which Saleh stood down after months of protests against his 33-year rule and was replaced in February by his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

It is also a direct challenge to Hadi’s authority. He is trying to restructure the armed forces and stabilize the impoverished Arab nation, where Saleh’s legacy still looms large. The Interior Ministry official said the tribesmen were Saleh loyalists, who were promised they would be enrolled in the police force in return for helping tackle last year’s uprising. The reward has not been granted to them.

“At midday, the armed tribesmen... stormed the ministry’s building, took control of it and climbed onto the roof with their guns,” the official said.

“They refuse to leave until their demands are met.”

Tribesmen have fought alongside government troops in a US-backed offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants that drove insurgents out of several towns in the south of the country last month. Many tribal fighters also sided with Saleh who was toppled by a popular uprising. Disgruntled tribesmen often kidnap foreigners and bomb oil and gas pipelines as a way to press demands on authorities.

In April, officers and tribesmen loyal to Saleh forced Yemen’s main airport to close for a day in protest at the sacking of the air force commander, a half-brother of Saleh. Separately, a booby-trapped parcel has killed the son of a Yemeni tribal chief in an attack suspected to be the work of Qaeda, police said on Sunday.

Ali Dahab, 14, died instantly when the parcel exploded after it was given to him to pass to his father, Sheikh Majed, as a present, police said in a statement carried by the official Saba news agency.

“Terrorists from Qaeda could be behind this crime.”

Sheikh Majed is a known opponent of Qaeda, whose militants overran his native village of Radah, in the central province of Bayda, earlier this year, before being chased out by armed tribesmen.

AFP adds: Unknown gunmen kidnapped on Sunday an Italian embassy security agent in Sanaa, a Western diplomat and a Yemeni security official said. The man was taken hostage from a street close to the mission in Hadda neighbourhood in southwestern Sanaa, the diplomat said requesting anonymity.

A security official in Sanaa confirmed to AFP that an Italian man was kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination.