Kidnapped French aid worker freed in Yemen

24th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A French aid worker kidnapped in Yemen's restive south was released on Thursday, just two days after her abduction, an official told AFP.

"The Frenchwoman... was released along with two Yemenis," municipal official Hasan Ali told AFP.

Gunmen kidnapped the French aid worker, who is of Moroccan origin, on Tuesday along with two Yemenis -- a translator and a driver.

They were on a mission in the southern province of Lahij and were travelling in a Red Cross vehicle, government and security officials said.

Ali said the kidnappers had been assured that activists from the autonomist Southern Movement would be released from government custody once they freed the hostages.

"They received assurances that the prosecution will soon complete their interrogation of four detainees from the southern separatist movement and then set them free," said Ali, adding that tribal leaders had intervened to secure the release of the hostages.

Ali said he would take the French aid worker to see the governor of Lahij.

"She is with me now and I'm on my way to the Lahij governor," he said.

A source close to the kidnappers had said they seized the three hostages as bargaining chips to press for the release of Southern Movement activists arrested a day earlier in the port city of Aden, the south's former capital.

The Southern Movement campaigns for greater autonomy for the formerly independent south, with its radical wing demanding renewed secession.

It largely suspended its campaign after nationwide protests broke out in January against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power in Sanaa since 1978, 12 years before the unification of north and south.

Residents of the south complain of discrimination by Saleh's regime since his forces overran the region in 1994, ending a brief civil war for secession.

Yemeni tribesmen have repeatedly kidnapped foreigners for use as bargaining chips in disputes with the authorities. More than 200 foreigners have been seized over the past 15 years, with nearly all freed unharmed.

Earlier this month, three French hostages kidnapped by Al-Qaeda militants arrived home after more than five months in captivity. Tribal sources said a ransom was paid.

© 2011 AFP

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