Saudi Diplomat Freed After Three-Year Captivity In Yemen

Saudi Diplomat Freed After Three-Year Captivity In Yemen

A Saudi diplomat kidnapped by al-Qaeda in southern Yemen three years ago has been freed, a Yemeni interior ministry official told China's Xinhua news agency on Monday.

Abdullah al-Khalidi, a Saudi deputy consul in Yemen's southern port city of Aden, was handed over on Sunday to tribal leaders in Shabwa, Yemen's southeastern province where the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is active, the official said.

The diplomat was kidnapped in front of his house on his way to work in Aden on March 28, 2012.

In Riyadh, a Saudi Interior Ministry official announced that the diplomat has returned to Saudi Arabia and that he will undergo medical checkup and meet his family, according to Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi announcement did not say where al-Khalidi had been held, nor who was behind his disappearance, but the Yemeni interior ministry source said the diplomat had been in the hands of the AQAP.

The AQAP was formed by branches of the al-Qaeda group in Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2009. Based in Yemen's southern regions, the AQAP is considered the most dangerous threat to the Yemeni government and its neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Foreigners are frequently kidnapped in Yemen by al-Qaeda militants or tribesmen who ask for ransoms or the release of their jailed fellows. Most of the kidnapped have been freed unharmed.

The group had demanded the release of its jailed members in Saudi prisons and a ransom of millions of dollars in exchange for releasing al-Khalidi.

The Yemen-based AQAP still holds an Iranian diplomat, who was kidnapped in July 2013 from the capital Sanaa.

Security in Yemen has deteriorated since September 2014 when the Shiite Houthi group took over control of Sanaa by force. More than a dozen countries closed their embassies in Sanaa early February in protest against the Houthi takeover of power.

Saudi Arabia has reopened its embassy in Aden to show support to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who fled house arrest by the Houthis to Aden in late January.



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