A Saudi diplomat held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Yemen for more than a year has urged the kingdom to secure his release, in a new video published by the extremist network’s media arm.
Abdullah al-Khalidi, Saudi’s deputy consul in the southern port of Aden, was dressed in a traditional black outfit and appeared to be in good health in the 19-minute video interview by Al-Malahem Media, apparently produced between February and March.
He appealed to Saudi King Abdullah to secure his release by meeting his kidnappers’ demands, asking: “Will he release me and return me back to my family and children?”
“They are demanding the release of a few women and some clerics” detained by Saudi authorities over their links to Al-Qaeda, he said.
Militants from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized Khalidi on March 28 last year seeking the release of female prisoners and to collect a ransom.
AQAP claimed responsibility for Khalidi’s abduction in April.
In parts of the video, AQAP aired pictures of what it said were satellite pictures of a US air base in Saudi Arabia from which drones targeted Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, as well as pictures of destruction caused by these raids.
The US has stepped up its support for Yemen’s battle against AQAP, which it regards as the most active and deadliest franchise of the global Al-Qaeda network.
This is Khalidi’s fourth such appeal. He last appeared in October in a similar recording, and made appeals on May 25 and again on July 1.
Although weakened, Al-Qaeda is still present in Yemen’s restive south and east, and launches sporadic attacks against security forces.
Saudi Arabia itself witnessed a wave of deadly attacks by Al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006, which prompted authorities to launch a crackdown on the local branch of the jihadist network founded by slain Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.
Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, almost all of whom have been freed unharmed.
Three Europeans — two Finns and an Austrian — snatched in Yemen in December are still missing.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]