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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 11:05 GMT
Yemeni court frees 92 militants
British embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa
The militants have promised not to attack embassies in the capital
A court in Yemen has freed 92 Muslim militants, including some suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.

Yemeni judge Hammoud al-Hatar told the court the prisoners had repented and promised not to attack embassies in the capital, Sanaa.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh said the reformed militants now had "a chance to be good citizens and help build the country".

Yemen has been pursuing a policy of dialogue with alleged extremists.

Pardons

Mr al-Hatar said the president had decided to release them "in light of the results of a dialogue through the committee of ulemas, [Islamic scholars]".

The state news agency Saba said the move marked the holy month of Ramadan.

A further 54 al-Qaeda suspects who surrendered to the authorities have been pardoned by the president, the agency said.

According to the French news agency AFP, they included Khaled Abdennabi, allegedly an Islamist radical leader who heads the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army and the Islamic Jihad group in Yemen, which are said to have links with al-Qaeda.

Mr Abdennabi reportedly had recently invited for dinner security chiefs who had cracked down on his gunmen in the province of Abyan in June.

'Renouncing violence'

Mr al-Hatar heads a committee of religious leaders established a year ago to begin negotiations with militants.

He said the talks with those suspected of having links with al-Qaeda but who were not in prison "were giving positive results".

He said the 36 extremists freed in 2002 but kept under surveillance as part of the same process all had "honoured their vows to give up extremism and violence".

The US warship Cole was bombed in Yemeni waters in 2000 and last year a French tanker was attacked off the coast of Yemen.


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