Freed Saudi diplomat safe in Sanaa

RIYADH: A Saudi diplomat who was kidnapped by tribal militants in Yemen late last month has been released and is under the protection of the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa, said Osama Nugali, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here Tuesday. Saeed Al-Malki was freed Tuesday morning, said Nugali.

It took several hours for Al-Malki to reach the Saudi mission, the spokesman added, because he was detained at a remote mountainous hide-out 80 to 90 km southeast of Sanaa. According to reports, the captors initially demanded SR5 million in ransom. But mediators persuaded the abductors to release Al-Malki unconditionally.

When asked about any deal or ransom paid to the armed tribesmen to secure the release, Nugali refused to reveal any information.

“The Saudi government was following closely, and with great concern, this case of abduction,” he added.

The diplomat was held captive for 10 days. On return to Sanaa on Tuesday, Al-Malki, who appeared to have no injuries, underwent a medical checkup. He spoke to his friends and family members. Al-Malki, according to reports, was kidnapped over a trade dispute involving a Saudi businessman and a group of Yemenis who allegedly had close links with Yemen’s tribal outfits.

The diplomat was kidnapped by gunmen of the Bani Dhabyan tribe. He was abducted while he was heading to the Saudi Embassy in the Yemeni capital. The kidnap mastermind was reportedly identified as Abdrabuh Nasser Al-Salmi. The Bani Dhabyan tribal groups have kidnapped foreigners and Yemenis on several occasions in the past. Armed tribesmen have abducted more than 200 foreigners in the last 15 years. In November last year, armed tribesmen kidnapped a Saudi official in Yemen and later released him after the release of kinsmen.

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