ADEN (YEMEN) - The planned release of a Saudi diplomat, kidnapped in Yemen almost four months ago, fell through at the last minute, when his captors doubled their ransom demand, a tribal mediator said on Sunday.
Abdullah al-Khalidi, Saudi deputy consul in Yemen's main southern city Aden, was supposed to be released overnight, but his captors "reneged at the last moment over the amount of the ransom," the mediator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
"This last-minute reversal was due to differences between the members of Al-Qaeda on the amount demanded for the ransom for the liberation of the diplomat," the mediator said, adding that the amount originally agreed was $10 million, but the captors now want $20 million.
He said that the hostage was taken overnight to the southern province of Abyan to be released, but he was later taken back to neighbouring Shabwa, further east, where he has been held since March 28.
In a video posted online last month, the captive appealed to King Abdullah to meet the demands of his Al-Qaeda kidnappers, mainly the release a number of female prisoners held in Saudi Arabia.
He had made a similar appeal in May.
In April, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said that Al-Qaeda was demanding the release of Islamists held in the kingdom, including women, in addition to a ransom, in return for setting the diplomat free.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was established in Yemen after merging the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the jihadist network in the face of a fierce crackdown by the Saudi security services.
Saudis have in the past been kidnapped in Yemen where abduction of foreigners is frequent.
In November 2010, a Saudi doctor was kidnapped in northern Yemen by gunmen who demanded the release of nine members of Al-Qaeda, but he was released on the same day thanks to mediation by tribal representatives.
In April last year, tribesmen abducted a Saudi diplomat over a financial dispute. He was set free after 10 days.