Saudi diplomat in Yemen freed by al Qaeda

Story highlights

  • Saudi ministry says diplomat arrived in Riyadh safely and is undergoing medical checkups
  • Gunmen kidnapped the diplomat, Abdullah Al Khalidi, in Aden, Yemen, in 2012

(CNN)Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has freed a Saudi diplomat it kidnapped three years ago, Yemeni Foreign Ministry officials told CNN.

Tribal leaders involved in negotiations with al Qaeda over the last month handed Abdullah Al Khalidi to Saudi authorities on Monday, two Yemeni government officials said.
Unknown gunmen kidnapped Al Khalidi, the Saudi deputy consular, in 2012 as he was leaving his residence in the Mansoora district of Yemen's business capital of Aden.
    He was later handed over to al Qaeda, where he appeared in al Qaeda video last year pleading to the Saudi government to ensure his safe release. Al Qaeda was demanding a ransom for his release and threatened to kill him if the ransom was not paid.
    CNN was not able to confirm whether Saudi Arabia or his family paid a ransom in exchange for his release.
    A Yemeni Foreign Ministry official told CNN that his government was not involved in the negotiations for Al Khalidi's release.
    "The Yemeni government does not negotiate with terrorists. Ransoms that are paid to terrorists motivates them to conduct more kidnappings," said the official on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media
    The Saudi Interior Ministry announced Monday that Al Khalidi reached Riyadh safely and is undergoing medical checkups.
    Al Khalidi had been living in Aden for four years when he was kidnapped.
    Last week, a Frenchwoman working for an international organization was kidnapped, along with her Yemeni translator, in Sanaa. Two four-wheel drive vehicles were used in the kidnapping attempt, according to eyewitnesses. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
    Kidnappings of foreigners is common in Yemen with tribes or al Qaeda-linked militants often demanding a ransom for their release or using them as a bargaining chip in their dealings with the central government.
    Al Qaeda is believed to have been behind most of the kidnappings since 2012.
    Gunmen kidnapped an Iranian diplomat, Ahmed Bakht, in Yemen in 2013, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Bakht was an Iranian national employed within the Iranian Embassy in Yemen and was kidnapped while traveling through the diplomatic quarter in Sanaa when gunmen blocked the road ahead of him and abducted him.