A French woman abducted in Yemen in February has been freed, French President Francois Hollande’s office said yesterday, adding that he would welcome her back to France later in the day.
Development worker Isabelle Prime and her translator, Shereen Makawi, were abducted by gunmen in Sana’a, Yemen, on Feb. 24 while on their way to work.
Yemeni tribal sources said in March Prime would be released, but only Makawi was freed at the time.
“Our compatriot Isabelle Prime has been freed tonight,” the Hollande statement said. “The president wishes to thank all those who helped achieve this outcome, and in particular Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of Oman.”
Neighboring Oman has often played a mediating role in hostage releases and regional diplomacy.
Authorities there helped locate Prime and bring her to the Gulf Arab sultanate at dawn, official news agency ONA cited an unnamed official at the Omani Foreign Ministry as saying.
Asked whether a ransom had been paid, a French official said France never gave details on either the detention or release of hostages.
“I spoke to her by telephone this morning, she is doing as well as can be expected,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. “The release of Isabelle Prime shows yet again that France does not abandon its own.”
Kidnappings of Westerners occur sporadically in Yemen, mostly carried out by al-Qaeda militants and tribesmen.
In recent years, tribesmen in Yemen have taken foreigners hostage to press the government to provide them with services or to free jailed relatives.
Yemen is also home to one of the most active branches of al-Qaeda, to which tribal kidnappers have often sold their victims, according to Yemeni security officials.
In June, France authenticated a video that appeared on YouTube in May showing Prime making an appeal in English to Hollande and Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“Please bring me to France fast because I’m really, really tired,” she said in the video, in which she was seen crouching on sand and in distress. “I tried to kill myself several times because I know you will not cooperate and I totally understand.”
Since Prime’s abduction, the situation in Yemen has become more complex. Hadi fled into exile in March after Iranian-allied Houthi fighters, who seized Sana’a in September, advanced toward his southern stronghold in Aden.
Yemen’s Arab neighbors have intervened to halt the advance of the Houthis, who are Shiite Muslims from the north.
The Houthis have been pounded with air strikes for more than four months and the raids and other warfare have killed more than 4,000 people. Disease, hunger and water shortages have also contributed to a humanitarian crisis.
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