Al Qaeda has freed 73 soldiers captured in battles in southern Yemen following mediation by religious scholars and tribal elders.
Residents of the southern town of Jaar, controlled by Al Qaeda-linked militants fighting under the banner of the Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), saw the soldiers being released from the school building they had been held in since early March on Sunday, according to Reuters.
In a statement, the group said Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni franchise, had authorized the release.
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Militants linked to Al Qaeda have exploited a security vacuum in Yemen’s southern and eastern regions following months of protests against ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The fighters intensified their attacks on the security forces after President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi took office in February and vowed to hunt down the militants.
The 73 captured soldiers were reportedly driven in two buses from Jaar to the southern port city of Aden after signing documents promising not to resume fighting against Al Qaeda militants, according to the Associated Press.
In a separate development Sunday, three suspected militants were killed in an air strike while driving in the northern province of Al-Jawf, the Agence France Presse reports.
The three men were reportedly in the province to offer condolences to family members of militants killed in action. A tribal source told the AFP that “the car was completely destroyed and all those inside were killed.”