French hostages freed in Yemen flown home

Aid workers taken by suspected al-Qaeda members more than five months ago are released with Omani mediation.

yemen hostages
Al-Masdar Online, an independent website, posted a video showing the aid workers who were taken hostage in May

Three French hostages kidnapped by suspected al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen more than five months have been freed and are on their way to Paris. 

Released with the mediation of Oman, the three made a stop in Muscat, the Omani capital, on Monday and they appeared in good health, according to media reports.

Tribal sources said in July that the aid workers, two men and a woman from French non-governmental group Triangle Generation Humanitaire , were seized by al-Qaeda fighters in the Hadramawt town of Seyun, 600km east of Sanaa, the capital.

A Yemeni businessman, Ahmed al-Souraimeh Ferid Ben, who was exiled to Oman in the 1990s and who worked for the hostages’ release, accompanied the French citizens on the plane.

At the military base, the freed hostages were greeted by France’s ambassador to Oman, Malika Berak.

The hostages disappeared on May 28. News of their release broke early on Monday with a statement from the French presidential palace.

At the time of their abduction, the former hostages’ car was found on the road some 20km from Shibam, a city known as the “Manhattan of the Desert” because of its spectacular high-rise mud-brick buildings, a Yemeni security official said at the time.

On July 27, tribal sources said the kidnappers were from al-Qaeda and were demanding a ransom of $12m.

A Yemeni mediator told The Associated Press that the Omani government and a Yemeni businessman paid a ransom, though he gave no figure and the ransom couldn’t immediately be confirmed.

The three appeared in an online video in September, saying their abductors’ demands had not been met.

Local sources on Monday said that leaders of the Al-Awalaq tribe led negotiations with Fahd al-Qussa, a tribe member and a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which kidnapped the three.

Foreigners have frequently been kidnapped in Yemen by tribes who use the tactic to pressure the authorities into making concessions.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen over the past 15 years, with almost all of them later freed unharmed.

Source: News Agencies