YEMEN

Video: Yemen kidnappers ‘only wanted the French girl’

Abdelakaoui  Makkaoui, brother of Sherine Makkaoui who was kidnapped alongside Frenchwoman Isabelle Prime in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Abdelakaoui Makkaoui, brother of Sherine Makkaoui who was kidnapped alongside Frenchwoman Isabelle Prime in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 FRANCE 24

Sherine Makkaoui, a Yemeni interpreter, was kidnapped alongside Frenchwoman Isabelle Prime in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Tuesday. FRANCE 24 spoke to Makkaoui’s family, who are praying for her safe return.

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On the morning of the kidnapping, Makkaoui visited her father, Chaouki, at his Sanaa home, asking him if he needed anything. It is the last time Chaouki spoke to his daughter.

He told FRANCE 24 that the kidnappers only wanted to take Prime, but that Sherine refused to leave her side.

“She was with her driver and her colleague when they reached a checkpoint on road 45.

“The kidnappers wanted just the French girl and told my daughter to leave,” he says.

“The French [girl] held on to my daughter and my daughter refused to go as she didn’t want to leave the French girl all by herself. And so then they all drove off.”

Prime and Makkaoui were seized after their car was stopped by men dressed as police.

The 39-year-old Frenchwoman was working in Sanaa as a consultant on a World Bank-funded project with Makkaoui acting as her guide and interpreter.

Makkaoui’s brother, Abdelakaoui, told FRANCE 24 the two had known each other since university.

“Sherine had a doctorate and did social studies at university. That’s where she met the French girl,” he said.

“They offered her voluntary work and then they offered her a job.”

Kidnappings are common in Yemen, where security has significantly worsened since Houthi rebels seized the capital in September.

Tribesmen have abducted dozens of foreigners in the past 15 years to use as pawns in settling grievances with the authorities.

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

The Makkaoui family has asked tribal chiefs and the Houthi Shiite militia to help free the two women, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said Paris is making "every effort" to reach the kidnappers.

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