By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 28, 2012- Ansar al-Sharea, an Islamic group linked to al-Qaeda released on Saturday about 73 soldiers captured early this month by the militants, which control swaths of towns in southern Yemen.
Ansar Al Sharia released the hostages for "The sake of God and in response to the appeals of the soldiers' families and the tribal mediation," a tribal figure reported.
The militants invited on Friday reporters, mediators, human rights activists and the soldiers' relatives to the city of Jaar to hand the captives over to their families.
The group decided on Friday night to free the soldiers.
"The soldiers will be handed to their families who came to the city of Jaar in Yemen's southern province of Abyan to receive them," the tribal figure added.
Two days ago Ansar al-Sharia threatened to execute at least 73 soldiers captured by the militants during raids on military bases in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan last month within a week if the government doesn’t meet their demands.
The militants asked Yemen new president Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his Prime Minister Mohamed Basendwa to free their militants from Yemeni jails.
The militants overwhelmed the military bases in the Doufas district killing and taking as hostage scores of soldiers as well as looting military equipment.
Earlier this month, at least 23 Yemeni soldiers were executed by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen’s southern province of Lahj.
Army soldiers from the 119th Brigade who were held captives by Ansar Al-Sharia militants linked to Al-Qaeda during fighting were executed in the desert between Lahj and Abyan provinces by the terrorist group members.
“Many dead bodies of the army soldiers were found scattered in different places in the suburbs of Lahj province following the fierce fighting,” residents said.
Members of the Yemeni parliament called to engage al-Qaeda into a dialogue, trying to negotiate the terms of a truce.
The parliamentarians from the Legislative Assembly insisted on the Executive to agree to hold talks with leaders of Ansar al-Sharia.
A group of legislators from different tendencies appreciated the talks with the militia, which in Sana’a is considered a branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a duty under certain conditions to put end to the bloodshed in the country.
Human Rights Watch urged on Wednesday Ansar al-Sharia militants to drop its threat to execute captured Yemeni soldiers, calling the Yemeni government to not agree to swap the militants for detained Islamist militants in Yemeni jails.
“Ansar al-Sharia should immediately drop its threat to execute captured Yemeni soldiers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “No one’s life, whether a captured soldier or civilian, is a bargaining chip to be discarded at will,” she added.