(MENAFN - Arab News) A suspected militant wanted by the Saudi government has demanded the release of prisoners from Saudi jails and a ransom in exchange for Saudi diplomat Abdullah Al-Khalidi who was kidnapped by gunmen in Yemen on March 28.
The abduction case took a new turn after Mishaal Mohammed Rasheed Al-Shodoukhi, who was named on a list of fugitive Al-Qaeda militants by the Saudi authorities in 2009, made a phone call to the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa and demanded the release of some prisoners.
Major General Mansour Al-Turki, a spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, said in Riyadh yesterday: "The Kingdom is concerned about the safety and security of Al-Khalidi, who still remains in the hands of his kidnappers. The case is being followed by the concerned departments at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we look forward to obtaining support from our brothers in Yemen to secure the release of the diplomat".
Al-Khalidi, the Kingdom's deputy consul posted in Aden, was kidnapped in the Yemeni port city outside his residence by some unknown gunmen.
Three weeks since the day of his abduction, the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa received a call from Al-Khalidi.
"In the call, Al-Shodoukhi took responsibility for kidnapping the Saudi deputy consul," said Ali Al-Hamadan, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen, in a statement yesterday.
"The militant also demanded a ransom for the release of Al-Khalidi," said the Saudi ambassador. During the call, Al-Shodoukhi also informed the Saudi Embassy that the kidnapped diplomat is safe and healthy, he added. The new developments in the case have refuted media reports that earlier claimed the diplomat was kidnapped by some Yemeni tribal outfits following some differences over a marriage proposal.
Al-Khalidi, after his kidnapping, was taken to an unknown location and police in Yemen have not found any clues to his whereabouts. Insecurity has plagued Yemen's mostly lawless southern region in the past year, with Al-Qaeda-linked militants overrunning several towns in Aden's neighboring Abyan province. The abduction of foreigners has become quite common. The Saudi Foreign Ministry earlier warned kidnappers that they will be held responsible for Al-Khalidi's safety and demanded his immediate release.
Late last year, unknown gunmen stopped Al-Khalidi while he was driving in Aden, pulled him from his car and then snatched some of his belongings. He, however, was unharmed. Khalidi is the third Saudi national to be kidnapped in Yemen in as many years. In April 2011, some tribesmen kidnapped Saudi diplomat Saeed Al-Maliki in the capital Sanaa in an apparent bid to settle a trade dispute involving a Saudi businessman.
Al-Maliki, a second secretary at the Saudi embassy, was released nine days later. In November 2010, gunmen kidnapped a Saudi doctor in north Yemen and demanded the release of nine jailed members of Al-Qaeda. Dhafer Al-Shihri, acting head of Al-Salam Hospital in Saada city in Yemen, was released the same day after tribal mediation. Saudi Arabia has played a crucial role in the power-transition deal that forced former president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office after a yearlong uprising against his rule.