x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Saudi Arabia rejects Al Qaeda deal for release of diplomat in Yemen

A Saudi spokesman said yesterday that a suspected Al Qaeda militant claimed responsibility for kidnapping the diplomat, Abdallah Al Khalidi, and demanded the release of militants in Saudi prisons.

Saudi Arabia rejected any negotiations with Al Qaeda for the release of a diplomat seized in Yemen last month and vowed to do all it can to free the hostage, a Saudi-owned newspaper reported yesterday.

A Saudi spokesman said yesterday that a suspected Al Qaeda militant claimed responsibility for kidnapping the diplomat, Abdallah Al Khalidi, and demanded the release of militants in Saudi prisons. He threatened in a call to the Saudi embassy in Sanaa to kill the diplomat unless their demands are met.

"The Saudi government cannot negotiate or bargain with Al Qaeda, the kidnapping party," Al Hayat newspaper quoted the assistant foreign minister, Prince Khaled bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as saying.

"We are working and will work with all our power, and we have instructions from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [King Abdullah] ..., to follow up with the brothers in Yemen to ensure his release," he said.

Mr Al Khalidi, the kingdom's deputy consul in Aden, Yemen, was kidnapped outside his residence on March 28.

A Saudi spokesman said the Al Qaeda caller had been identified as Mishaal Al Shodoukhi, who was named on a list of fugitive Al Qaeda militants by Saudi authorities in 2009.

Mr Al Shodoukhi threatened that his group would "prepare the knives" unless their demands were met, an official Saudi spokesman said, and warned of more attacks including an embassy bombing and the assassination of a Saudi prince.

Yemen's political turmoil has strengthened Islamist insurgents in the country, leading to their takeover of some cities in the south of Yemen. They are allied with a regional wing of Al Qaeda that has sworn to bring down Saudi Arabia's ruling family.

The Saudi interior ministry said last year it was holding 5,696 people for "militant" related cases, most of whom appeared before courts.