Yemen: Gunmen Seize Saudi Diplomat In South


By Ghazanfar Ali Khan

A senior Saudi diplomat was kidnapped on his way to work Wednesday in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, said an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the second abduction of a Saudi diplomat in Yemen during the last one year.

Yemen has become a safe haven for militant tribesmen, kidnappers and terrorists since the political uprising that brought about a regime change.

According to reports, Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul Abdullah Al-Khalidi was kidnapped by unknown gunmen near his residence in Mansoora district of Aden while about to enter his car. Senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the news of abduction here.

No group — either the militant tribesmen or any other warring outfits — has claimed responsibility so far.

The Foreign Ministry and Saudi officials in Yemen are closely following the situation. The Saudi Embassy has already contacted the highest security authority in Yemen and they are investigating.

The Foreign Ministry said, “The abduction would not serve any purpose. The people who have committed this act would not benefit in any way.”

The diplomat was forced into another vehicle, after being dragged from his car, which sped off with him to an unknown location, said the Yemeni police in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.

It was not clear whether the abduction had any political or financial motives. Aden is the city closest to Yemen’s Abyan province where government forces have been struggling to contain militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda.

In fact, security in the country’s second city Aden, and in southern Yemen generally, has deteriorated during the political turmoil that began with mass protests against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh in early 2011, and saw fighting among pro- and anti-Saleh factions of the military as well as tribal militias.

In the past year, these groups have consolidated their control over several towns and villages in the region, including Abyan’s capital Zinjibar. Kidnapping is common in Yemen, with captives often being held as negotiating tools in disputes between rival tribes or armed groups. This is the third incident involving Saudi diplomats in Yemen during the last one year.

Two months ago, unknown gunmen seized the car and some personal belongings of Vice Consul Al-Khalidi in Aden. In April last year, another Saudi diplomat was kidnapped and kept in detention for 10 months before he was finally released.

Saeed Al-Maliki, a second secretary at the Saudi Embassy in Sanaa, was kidnapped last year by three gunmen of Yemen’s Beni Dhabian tribe when he was passing the Hada Street in Sanaa to join his duty at the embassy. Al-Maliki was taken to a mountainous area, 80 kms southeast of the Yemeni capital.

This is not the only case of abduction involving Saudi citizens and officials in that country despite massive aid and support provided by the Kingdom. In November 2010, armed tribesmen kidnapped a Saudi official in Yemen and later released him after receiving assurances about the release of detained kinsmen. In another case, the Saudi Embassy managed to free four Saudi citizens, who were abducted by gunmen in Yemeni capital.

In another highly-publicized case, Saudi security officials secured the release of two German girls who were part of a group of foreigners kidnapped in Yemen sometime back. The girls were found during a joint Saudi-Yemeni operation.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen over the past few years. In fact, foreigners are frequently kidnapped in that country, and the kidnappers use them as bargaining chips against authorities or securing the release of their detained accomplices and tribesmen.

Earlier on Wednesday Saudi Arabia announced it would provide Yemen with all its petroleum needs for two months following talks between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia and its GCC partner countries have been heavily involved in a power-transfer deal that forced Yemen’s longtime President Saleh to relinquish power after a yearlong turmoil and mass protests against his rule. Saleh stepped down last month and handed power to his deputy. Yemen’s turmoil has caused a security vacuum, which Al-Qaeda has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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