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Suspected al-Qaeda militants leave town in Yemen they had taken over

By Hakim Almasmari, For CNN
updated 6:27 AM EST, Wed January 25, 2012
Yemini President Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed, runs the guards who allegedly allowed suspected al Qaeda militants into Radda.
Yemini President Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed, runs the guards who allegedly allowed suspected al Qaeda militants into Radda.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The suspected al Qaeda militants stormed the town about two weeks ago
  • Negotiations went on for four days
  • The militants left town after three prisoners were released
  • They had demanded that 16 prisoners be released

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- A crew of suspected al Qaeda militants who had taken over a town in Yemen evacuated after tense negotiations, government officials said Wednesday.

The militants left the town of Radda in exchange for the release of three prisoners, according to the office of Vice President Abdurabu Hadi.

The militants had wanted 16 prisoners released, but a deal was struck after four days of negotiations.

Among the prisoners released was the brother of the leader of the group who took over the town.

"Vice President Hadi is seeking to help the country go forward during this critical time. He is constantly trying to solve the problems that were piling up over the last year," said Yahya al-Arasi, a senior Hadi aide.

The militants stormed Radda about two weeks ago, taking over government buildings and mosques, freeing inmates from jails and saying they planned to implement Sharia law.

But even though the militants had left, residents there said they could still feel their presence and see the evidence of their assault on the town, which is 172 kilometers (107 miles) southeast of Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

Banners that the militants had brought into the town were still hanging on mountain peaks and on some government buildings, making some feel uneasy.

"They were here for 12 days. They controlled everything and the government did nothing to help us," said Ali al-Shuqaidi, a resident in the town. "What guarantees do the people have that this won't happen again? We can't live normally if we have no government assurances."

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