Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents release 73 Yemeni soldiers
An insurgent group linked to al-Qaeda on Sunday released 73 Yemeni soldiers after mediation by tribal leaders, dpa reported referring to opposition website Mareb Press.
The soldiers were taken captive by militants from Ansar Al Sharia (partisans of Islamic law) nearly two months back, following an attack on military posts in southern Yemen, the report said.
The soldiers were handed over to mediators in the town of Jaar in the southern province of Abyan, according to the report.
Ansar Al Sharia had earlier threatened to execute the soldiers. But it said Saturday they would be released after mediation by tribal leaders and local clergy.
It was not immediately clear if the release was also part of a negotiated deal with the government.
Mareb Press quoted local sources as saying that the mediators had pledged to "put pressure" on security authorities to release prisoners affiliated to Ansar Al Sharia.
Insurgents with suspected ties to al-Qaeda have widened their influence in Yemen, taking advantage of the weak central government and a year of political turmoil in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.
President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, who took office in February, has vowed to fight al-Qaeda, calling it a "religious and national duty" to do so.