By RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN
Apr 2, 2012
A Saudi diplomat who was kidnapped from the Yemeni port city of Aden last Wednesday, is expected to be released soon after hectic negotiations with his abductors yesterday, according to Saudi and Yemeni official sources.
Abdullah Al-Khalidi is being held captive in a hostile mountainous area between the Aden and Lahj provinces in Yemen, said the local Saudi Ambassador Ali Al-Hamdan.
“The Saudi and Yemeni officials are doing their best to secure the release,” said Al-Hamdan in a statement. “Initially, it was difficult to contact abductors because of the hostile nature of the mountainous areas where the diplomat was taken,” he added.
However, the officials have managed to contact the captors and now negotiations are ongoing, he added. He, however, voiced concerns about the diplomat’s health and safety. The area where Al-Khalidi is reportedly being held hostage is notoriously dangerous, especially after at least 23 troops were killed and 11 others wounded when militants raided and seized a strategic checkpoint in Lahj province yesterday.
This dangerous geography of Yemen helps abductors to hide themselves safely. Al-Khalidi is believed to have been taken to one of these mountainous regions.
However, the daily Yemen Post claimed the diplomat was in good health. The paper was quoting Sheikh Sultan Al-Bakiri, chairman of the tribal mediation committee and Sheikh of Al-Bakiri tribe, one of the Qahtan tribes in the Yemeni Mareb governorate.
Al-Bakiri added the kidnappers have made a big mistake. He said Al-Khalidi was well known and liked throughout his five-year tenure in Aden.
Al-Bakiri said his tribe travelled a long way to negotiate with the kidnappers. “We call on all the sheikhs of Yemen and its tribes to follow in our footsteps by condemning this operation in word and deed,” said Al-Bakiri.
“They must reject this bad phenomenon that is harming all Yemenis in the country and abroad,” said Al-Bakiri. “Serving the Kingdom and its people is an honor for my tribe,” he has been quoted in the report as saying.
Al-Hamdan said: “The embassy is in constant contact with the Yemeni authorities and is working to release the high-ranking diplomat safely.”
He refused to disclose further details but expressed optimism that a peaceful solution could be reached that would eventually help to secure the diplomat’s release.
Sources said the cause of Al-Khaladi’s abduction was not political or terror linked. They said it was because of a dispute that arose from the diplomat’s proposed marriage that is believed to have angered the bride’s family.
The abduction of foreign diplomats and workers is becoming a routine affair in Yemen. Only a few days ago, a Swiss language teacher was abducted by armed men in the Red city of Al-Hodieda. The English language teacher was moved to the southeastern province of Shabwa.
The Swiss government confirmed the kidnapping and said it was liaising with the Yemeni authorities in order to negotiate a safe release of the Swiss hostage. Kidnapping incidents have increased in the last few years in Yemen, with tribesmen resorting to abducting foreigners to force the government to release their imprisoned relatives, or demand a ransom.
Earlier the year, a UN Norwegian worker was snatched by tribesmen from the central province of Marib about two blocks away from the presidential palace in the Yemeni capital of Sana. In February this year, three Saudi nationals were also abducted at gunpoint. They were later released after the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa worked day and night to save them.