MENAFN - Arab News - 05/07/2012
(MENAFN - Arab News) Alauddin Alaskary, deputy foreign minister for protocol affairs, has denied media reports the Saudi Embassy in Yemen was closed and subsequently reopened.
He said the Kingdom only closed down its consulate in the Yemeni port city of Aden and its consular section in Sanaa following the abduction of Saudi diplomat Abdullah Al-Khaldi on March 28 this year.
He hoped the Saudi consulates would also resume normal operations once the security situation improves.
A press statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also denied the embassy's closure, but confirmed the closure of the consulates. It said the embassy would still be able to issue visas.
Alaskary said the Kingdom and Yemen were working to free Al-Khaldi.
He added: "We are very concerned about the safety and security of our official."
Some media reports said the militants have dropped some of their ransom demands.
Al-Qaeda militants posted online a new video of Al-Khaldi recently.
The Saudi Ministry of Interior confirmed Al-Khaldi, who was abducted near his house in Aden, was being held by a Yemen-based Al-Qaeda branch. The confirmation came a few weeks after the kidnapping.
The Saudi Embassy in Sanaa received a phone call from Mashal Mohammed Rashid Al-Shadokhi, a fugitive who is No. 77 on a list of 85 men wanted by the Saudi government and who said he had the diplomat in his custody.
Al-Shadokhi fled to Yemen in 2009 after Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Yemen announced they would merge under the name of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The fugitive informed the Saudi Embassy that Al-Khaldi was being held by Al-Qaeda and relayed the terror network's conditions and demands for releasing him, adding he was in good health.
Al-Qaeda demanded all detained members of the terror network in the Kingdom's jails, including female members, be released and moved to Yemen, and that a ransom payment to be specified later paid.
A report published by Yemen Post newspaper yesterday said negotiations with Al-Qaeda to secure Al-Khaldi's release have resumed. An unnamed tribal chief predicted negotiations would be successful.
Al-Khaldi is the third Saudi national to be kidnapped in Yemen in as many years.
In April 2011, tribesmen seized a Saudi diplomat in the capital Sanaa. Saeed Al-Maliki, a second secretary at the Saudi embassy, was released nine days later.
In November 2010, gunmen abducted a Saudi doctor in north Yemen and demanded nine jailed Al-Qaeda militants be freed. He was released the same day after tribal mediation.
Abductions, killings and terror acts have become a routine affair in the country.
Yemen, supported by neighboring Gulf countries and the international community, is cracking down on militants on a daily basis. Yesterday Yemen arrested 13 members of an Al-Qaeda-linked cell tasked with killing government officials and intelligence officers.
A Yemeni Interior Ministry source said: "This was one of the most dangerous Al-Qaeda cells in Sanaa." He said the group behind the killing of an intelligence officer was responsible for the acts of terrorism in neighborhood, where President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi lived.
The group was also behind an assassination attempt yesterday when an official's car exploded minutes after he got out of it.
The United States and the Gulf states together with European allies are deeply worried by the threat of the Al-Qaeda offshoot that has exploited political instability in Yemen to gain a foothold in the country.
Yemeni warplanes also bombed militant hide-outs in the south of the country yesterday. The four airstrikes killed eight militants in the Al-Mahfadh area of Abyan, where they had taken refuge after being driven from their strongholds last month by Yemeni troops backed by the United States.
A popular uprising that began in January 2011 and eventually toppled former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh severely weakened central government control over Yemen. This also gave militants an opportunity to move freely and seize territory for the first time.