French presidency says hostage Frenchwoman released in Yemen

Office of French President Francois Hollande releases statement saying French consultant Isabelle Prime released in Yemen after more than five months of captivity

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Women hold posters of Frenchwoman, Isabelle Prime (R) and her Yemeni translator Shereen Makawi during a protest to demand their release in Sanaa March 9, 2015.

French president’s office released a statement late on Thursday announcing that Frenchwoman Isabelle Prime who was kidnapped in Yemen in February is released and will return to France in a short time.

“Our compatriot Isabelle Prime has been freed tonight,” the statement said without giving much detail about the circumstances of the release.

“The President of the Republic [Francois Hollande] wishes to thank all those who helped reach this outcome, and in particular Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the Sultan of Oman,” the statement said.

Prime, who was working as a consultant for World Bank-funded Yemen's Social Fund for Development project, was kidnapped on Feb. 24 with her translator, Sherine Makkaoui, in capital Sanaa by unidentified gunmen. The translator was released soon after the abduction.

Yemeni tribesmen have been kidnapping foreigners in recent years and use them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the Yemeni government to secure concessions.

On May 4, a video showing Prime in a black dress appeared appeared on YouTube where she appealed French President Francois Hollande and exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi for her release saying “Please bring me to France fast because I’m really, really tired.”

“"I tried to kill myself several times because I know you will not cooperate and I totally understand," she said in the video expressing her desperation.

The statement by the French president’s office said Hollande “shares the joy of the family of Isabelle, who have demonstrated great courage and great responsibility during the long wait.”

Prime’s kidnapping came at a time when Yemen is undergoing a political turmoil as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels captured capital Sanaa and forced President Hadi out of office.

Hadi fled to neighbouring Saudi Arabia about a month after Prime’s abduction and a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia started air strikes against the Houthis on March 26 with the aim of reinstating Hadi to power.

The conflict in the country has claimed more than 4,000 lives and left millions in need of aid.

The war in the country has triggered an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Yemen, The UN has declared the situation in Yemen to be a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, after about 80 percent of the country’s population fell into dire need of humanitarian aid.

Twenty million people in the country are in need of aid, 13 million are facing food shortages and 9.4 million are having difficulties accessing drinking water.

TRTWorld and agencies