Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Saudis: Yemen consul's kidnappers demand prisoner release

A suspected al Qaeda militant who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Saudi Arabian diplomat in Yemen has warned that his group will "prepare the knives" unless their demands are met, an official Saudi spokesman said on Tuesday.

Mishaal Mohammed Rasheed al-Shodoukhi, who was named on a list of fugitive al Qaeda militants by the Saudi authorities in 2009, phoned the Saudi embassy in Yemen to demand a ransom and the release of militants in Saudi prisons, the spokesman said.

He also threatened more attacks including an embassy bombing and the assassination of a Saudi prince.

Abdallah al-Khalidi, the kingdom's deputy consul, was kidnapped outside his residence in the south Yemen port of Aden on March 28.

"There are some people here who have been calling, ever since Khalidi was kidnapped, to prepare the knives (to kill him)... Now it is a consul kidnapped, tomorrow it will be an embassy bombing and after that a prince killed," Shodoukhi said, according to a transcript of his conversation with the embassy released by the Saudi authorities.

"The Saudi embassy in Yemen received phone calls by Shodoukhi ... saying that he represents the 'evil group' and confirming that they have kidnapped the deputy consul in Aden," a Saudi security spokesman was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency.

Yemen's political turmoil has strengthened Islamist insurgents in the country, leading to their takeover of some cities in the south of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state. They are allied with a regional wing of al Qaeda that has sworn to bring down neighboring Saudi Arabia's ruling family.

The Saudi spokesman, Mansour al-Turki, confirmed to Reuters that the reference to the "evil group" meant al Qaeda in Yemen.

"They have demands which include handing over a number of the prisoners, who are members of their organization, in Yemen," the statement on SPA said.

Websites associated with al Qaeda did not carry a claim of responsibility for the abduction.

The transcript quoted Shodoukhi as demanding a ransom but saying he did not know how much it would be as "it will be agreed upon later; I am just a messenger".

The Interior Ministry said last year it was holding 5,696 people for "militant" related cases, most of whom appeared before courts.

A string of security officials have been assassinated in recent months in south Yemen, where an Islamist group linked to al Qaeda has seized territory and claimed responsibility for attacks on Yemeni troops and a U.S. security team last month.

Separately, a suicide car bomber killed four people including three soldiers and wounded four other people on Tuesday near the southern town of Lawder, Yemen's Defence Ministry said in a statement. The bomber blew himself up at the army checkpoint, according to the ministry.

(Reporting By Asma Alsharif in Jeddah, Angus McDowall in London and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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