Saudi consul kidnapped in Yemen released after three years


Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has announced that a kingdom’s diplomat abducted by gunmen in Yemen has been released after nearly three years in captivity and has returned home.

The ministry said in a statement on Monday that Abdullah al-Khalidi was freed as a result of intensive efforts made by the Saudi intelligence agency.

The statement further noted that the diplomat “will undergo medical examinations and be reunited with his family.”

Khalidi, the Saudi deputy consul in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, was kidnapped on March 28, 2012, as he was leaving for work.

Four months after his abduction, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) demanded the release of all its members detained in Saudi Arabia as well as a ransom in exchange for Khalidi’s freedom.

AQAP initially asked for USD 10 million but later doubled the ransom demand to USD 20 million.

According to Saudi Interior Ministry authorities, the diplomat had been handed over by his kidnappers to al-Qaeda “in a suspicious deal.”

It was not immediately known if Saudi Arabia paid any ransom in return for Khalidi’s eventual release. 

Abductions are frequent in Yemen, and security experts say victims are commonly sold on to AQAP after being kidnapped.

On February 24, a female French citizen working for an international organization in Yemen was abducted by unidentified gunmen in the capital, Sana’a, along with her Yemeni translator.

French President Francois Hollande called for the release of the unnamed woman “as soon as possible.”

Over the past months, the al-Qaeda militants have frequently carried out attacks on Yemen’s security forces. The militants have also been engaged in battle with the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement.

The central government in Sana’a has so far failed in efforts to rid the country of the threats posed by the militants.

Ansarullah fighters, who played a major role in the 2011 ouster of Yemen’s dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have intervened to fill the vacuum, driving the al-Qaeda militants out of many areas in the country. 

Ali al-Emad, an Ansarullah leader, has said that Saudi Arabia supports the militants operating in Yemen in order to control oil and service centers in the provinces of Ma’rib and Hadhramaut.