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French woman kidnapped in Yemen, foreign ministry confirms

Mohammed Huwais, AFP I Yemeni security forces stand guard outside the French embassy in Sanaa on February 13, 2015

France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed reports that a French woman working for an international organisation had been kidnapped in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which is under the control of Shiite Houthi rebels.


“We unfortunately confirm the kidnapping this morning in Sanaa of a French national working for an international organisation,” the ministry said in a statement. “We are fully mobilised to try and locate her and ensure a speedy liberation.”

French President François Hollande called for the woman to be released “as soon as possible”.

Unidentified gunmen seized 30-year-old Isabelle Prime, a consultant working on a World Bank-funded project, after stopping her car in front of a ministry in Yemen.

She was kidnapped alongside her local guide, who was identified as Sherine Makkaoui.



The French woman was employed by Ayala Consulting, a firm based in Miami and Ecuador. Its president, Francisco Ayala, told AFP there had been "some contact" with the kidnappers.

Abductions are common in Yemen, a country of 25 million where disgruntled tribesmen have frequently seized foreigners to use as pawns in negotiations to push the government to provide them with services or to free jailed relatives.

The country is also home to one of the most active branches of al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, which is also known to target foreigners.

Western nations including Britain, France and the United States closed their embassies in Yemen this month over security concerns and have also called on their citizens to leave.

France's foreign ministry said Tuesday its nationals should "leave the country as fast as possible".

Yemen has been in turmoil since September, when the Houthi rebels seized control of the capital.

The Shiite militia group stormed the presidential palace and announced the dissolution of parliament earlier this month.



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