Australian woman freed, leaves Yemen with her kids

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SAN’A, Yemen: Yemen on Friday released an Australian woman detained as part of an investigation into Al-Qaeda’s increased activity in the country and allowed her to fly home with her two children, her lawyer and security officials said.

Shyloh Giddins was among several foreigners taken into custody during the probe. She was initially placed on house arrest May 14, along with her two children, and later held in a prison. She was never charged with anything after her detention, according to her lawyers.

After top-level Australia-Yemen contacts to resolve the issue, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Tuesday that Yemen had agreed to release the woman and deport her and the children by the end of the week.

Giddins’ lawyer in Yemen, Abdel-Rahman Berman, said she was taken from the prison to the airport, while police picked up the children from their apartment in the capital, San’a. The plane with the three took off shortly before 11 a.m. Friday morning, security officials said.

It was expected to make a stopover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on its way to Australia, the officials added. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media.

Giddins converted to Islam about 10 years ago and in 2006 moved to Yemen with her children. Here, she devoted herself to Islamic studies, studied Arabic and taught English at private institutes.

Australia canceled Giddins’ passport in April, but refused to release details as to why.

Australian government documents obtained from Berman said the passport was canceled because Australia’s intelligence service believes she is a security threat and has an extremist interpretation of Islam. Giddins’ two children are 5 and 7 years old.

Berman said Giddins received a new Australian passport while in detention.

Giddin’s arrest was announced last week as part of an investigation that Yemeni officials said included Americans and Britons. They said the arrests came after foreign intelligence agencies provided lists of names of people they wanted to have detained or put under surveillance.

The US State Department later said Yemen had detained 12 Americans over the past several months, and that three of them are being held on terrorism-related charges.

Yemen’s weak central government has struggled with a growing Al-Qaeda threat from insurgents who are increasing their operations in the impoverished and largely lawless country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen steadily amassed strength after key leaders escaped from a Yemeni jail in 2006. In 2009, it was further bolstered by a merger with Saudi Al-Qaeda insurgents to form Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.



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