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Middle East

French woman freed after six months of captivity in Yemen

© AFP file | Yemeni demonstrators hold posters of Isabelle Prime and Sherine Makkaoui on March 5, 2015 in Sanaa.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-08-07

French national Isabelle Prime is en route to France following her release from six months of captivity in Yemen. Prime will be met by President François Hollande when she arrives at Villacoublay air base near Paris on Friday evening.

The 31-year-old consultant was abducted in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in February. She arrived in Oman earlier on Friday.

"Our compatriot Isabelle Prime has been freed tonight," French President François Hollande said in a statement late Thursday. 

Prime, who worked as a consultant on a World Bank-funded project, was seized with her translator Sherine Makkaoui, as they were driving to work in the capital Sanaa. Makkaoui, who is Yemeni, was freed in March.

France has made "every effort to achieve this happy outcome", the statement said, adding that the presidency "expresses its gratitude to all those who worked on this solution, including Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, Sultan of Oman".

President Hollande "shares the joy of the family of Isabelle, who have demonstrated great courage and great responsibility during the long wait", it said.


Prime is now in the hands of French authorities and is expected to return to France Friday evening, according to a statement from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who like the president thanked the government of Oman for its help.

French officials have not divulged details about her release, including which group had been holding the French national.

"The liberation of Isabelle Prime shows again that France never abandons its own," said Fabius.

Prime, originally from the west of France, arrived in Yemen in 2013.

Video appeal to Hollande

In June she appeared in a 21-second video posted on YouTube by her captors. Dressed in black, she made her appeal to Hollande and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in English.

"Please bring me to France fast because I'm really, really tired," she said in the video. "I tried to kill myself several times because I know you will not cooperate and I totally understand."

Francisco Ayala, president of Ayala Consulting, Prime's employer, told AFP late Thursday that he received news of her release through a telephone call from the French foreign ministry.

He said: "The whole thing was very secret. The government of France never told me or even her father anything (about efforts to secure her release). I guess more news will come later."

He said Prime could arrive in Paris as early as Friday.

Ayala, who spoke via Skype from his firm's base in Ecuador, said he had spoken to Prime's father, who Ayala said was planning to travel to Paris Friday.

Foreign hostages

A number of foreigners have been taken hostage in Yemen over the past 15 years, mostly by tribesmen as bargaining chips in negotiations with the government. Almost all have been freed unharmed.

But in December, US journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie died during a failed attempt by US commandos to rescue them from an al Qaeda hideout in southeastern Yemen.

Prior to Prime's release, the most recent French hostage to be freed was Serge Lazarevic in December last year, after he spent three years in the hands of Islamist militants in Mali.

At the time of his release, Lazarevic was the last of more than a dozen French citizens taken captive in recent years, with those held in Africa reaching a high of 15 last year.

Yemen has been riven by violence since a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against Houthi rebels this year after they and troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh seized the capital Sanaa.

The war in Yemen has killed nearly 4,000 people, half of them civilians, while 80 percent of the 21 million population needs aid and protection, the UN says.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2015-08-07


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