Apr 23, 2012
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - A Saudi Arabian diplomat who was kidnapped last month in Yemen is in good health and could be released within "the coming hours", according to a Yemeni tribal leader who said on Monday he had been negotiating with the abductors.
Abdallah al-Khalidi, the kingdom's deputy consul in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, was seized outside his residence there on March 28.
Riyadh said last week a suspected al Qaeda militant had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and had threatened to kill Khalidi unless a ransom was handed over and militants were freed from Saudi prisons.
Sheikh Tareq al-Fadli, a tribal head in Yemen's southern Abyan region and prominent leader of the area's separatist movement, told Reuters he had been negotiating with the kidnappers for Khalidi's release.
"Things are going well ... The man is fine. He is in good health," Fadli said, adding that Khalidi would be released "within the coming hours".
Fadli did not go into further detail about his contact with the kidnappers, or whether he had made them any offer in return for the diplomat's release.
Islamist insurgents and separatist groups have been emboldened by more than a year of turmoil in Yemen that was sparked by mass protests which eventually ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The United States, and Yemen's neighbour Saudi Arabia, have been especially alarmed by the rise of militants allied to a regional wing of al Qaeda that has sworn to bring down Saudi Arabia's ruling family.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state of Yemen lies close to key shipping lanes through the Red Sea.
A Saudi government spokesman last week said the man claiming responsibility for the kidnapping had been identified as Mishaal al-Shodoukhi, who was named on a list of fugitive al Qaeda militants by Saudi authorities in 2009.
Shodoukhi said his group would "prepare the knives" unless their demands were met and threatened further attacks, including an embassy bombing and the assassination of a Saudi prince, the Saudi spokesman said.
Riyadh, which has substantial influence among Yemeni tribes, rejected any negotiations with al Qaeda for the release of Khalidi.