A Yemeni lawmaker has denied involvement in the abduction of two South African nationals in the city of Taiz after authorities accused him of orchestrating the kidnapping to pressure authorities to give him a disputed piece of land.

Abdel-Hamid el-Batra on Wednesday described accusation as "baseless" and said authorities were trying to cover up their failures in protecting foreigners.

Abductions are not rare in Yemen, but Monday's kidnapping of foreigners was unusual in its circumstances and was the first in Taiz, near the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Police said they received a call from associates of el-Batra saying he organized the kidnapping, pledging to hand over the foreigners in exchange for the land.

Five suspects were arrested in connection with the abduction, government spokesman Rageh Badi said.