RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – A Saudi diplomat abducted by suspected al-Qaida militants in Yemen has been freed after nearly three years in captivity and has returned home to Riyadh, the kingdom said Monday.
A statement from the Saudi Interior Ministry said the diplomat, Abdullah al-Khaldi, was released through efforts made by the kingdom’s intelligence agency, but provided no further details.
The kingdom “spares no effort in protecting its citizens and ensuring their safety wherever they are,” the ministry added.
Al-Khaldi was abducted in March 2012 in front of his home in Aden, where he worked as the deputy consul at the Saudi mission. At the time, Yemen’s al-Qaida branch had overrun several cities and large swaths of territory in the country’s south.
Four months after he was seized, suspected al-Qaida militants posted a video of him appealing to the Saudi king to grant his captors their demands and save his life. In the video, al-Khaldi says he would be released if Saudi Arabia releases female militant prisoners.
The video never showed his captors, but was purportedly produced by al-Malahem, the media arm of Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, known as the Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi Arabia said at the time that al-Qaida’s demands also included a ransom and the release of several male prisoners. The kingdom said those demands were relayed over the phone to the Saudi Embassy in Yemen by one of its most wanted terror suspects, Saudi-born Mashaal al-Shawdakhi.
A decade ago, al-Qaida militants launched a string of attacks in Saudi Arabia, aimed at toppling the monarchy. Saudi authorities responded with a massive crackdown that saw many militants flee south to neighboring Yemen, where they established AQAP. The kingdom has since imprisoned thousands of suspected militants and sentenced others to death.