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Saudi court releases five female Qaeda suspects

world Updated: Jul 23, 2012 19:37 IST
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A Saudi court has released five women who allegedly had links with Al Qaeda, an official said Monday, but implied that the move was unrelated to demands made by captors holding a Saudi diplomat in Yemen.

"Five women held on security charges have been released based on judicial orders in two different cases," interior ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki told AFP.

The court ordered the release of two of the women "one month ago because they were pregnant and close to their due dates," Turki said, adding they remained on trial out of custody.

"Three others were released on bail early this week pending trial."

On March 28, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula abducted Abdullah al-Khalidi, Saudi Arabia's deputy consul in Yemen's main southern city of Aden, in a bid to secure the release of female prisoners and collect a ransom.

Khalidi had repeatedly made appeals to Saudi King Abdullah to secure his release by agreeing to the demands of his captors.

"Why are you refusing to free the prisoners?" Khalidi asked the Saudi monarch in a video posted earlier this month.

However, when asked if the release of the five women was linked to Khalidi's abduction, Turki said that the court decisions were "normal judicial procedures."

Khalidi is the third Saudi national to be kidnapped in Yemen in as many years.

Saudi Arabia had 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.