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Middle East

Kidnapped Franco-Tunisian Red Cross worker freed in Yemen

© HO | Red Cross worker Nourane Houas was kidnapped at the beginning of December 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-10-03

A Franco-Tunisian Red Cross staffer kidnapped in Yemen almost a year ago was freed on Monday and taken to Muscat, the Omani foreign ministry said.

The Omani foreign ministry said the release of Nourane Houas was secured "at the request of the French authorities, the instructions of Sultan Qaboos and in coordination with Yemeni parties", which it did not identify.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen confirmed in a tweet that their colleague had been freed.

Houas, a staffer with the ICRC's humanitarian protection programme in Yemen, was abducted in the Houthi rebel-held capital Sanaa in early December 2015.

Online footage that surfaced on May 6 showed Houas appealing to her Red Cross employers and governments to help free her. The 39-second video, which was shared on Yemeni news sites, showed Houas wearing a black veil and pleading in French to President François Hollande and Yemen's exiled president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, for assistance.

Houas did not indicate her location nor the identity and demands of her kidnappers.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement at the time that Houas had dual nationality and that the country's relevant services were working to support the ICRC and secure her release.

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped Houas on December 1, 2015, as she was leaving home for work in Sanaa. A Yemeni man who had been with her was later released.

Sanaa is controlled by the Houthi militia, a Shiite rebel group allied with Iran that has seized control of much of war-torn Yemen.

The capture of Sanaa by the Houthis prompted an armed intervention by a Saudi-led Arab alliance, which has been waging an air campaign against the Houthis and allied soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In September 2015 two Yemeni ICRC employees were shot dead in the northern province of Amran by an unknown attacker. In August, gunmen raided the ICRC office in the port city of Aden, forcing the agency to temporarily suspend its activities there.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

Date created : 2016-10-03


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