Search intensified for abducted French woman in Yemen
Nirapad News : Efforts intensified Wednesday to find a French woman and her Yemeni interpreter kidnapped in crisis-hit
Yemen, with relatives reaching out to tribal chiefs and Shiite militiamen in control of the capital.
Unidentified gunmen seized 30-year-old Isabelle Prime — a consultant working on a World Bank-funded project –
– and her interpreter Sherine Makkaoui from a car in Sanaa on Tuesday.
Their abduction has sparked a widening search, and prompted calls by France for its nationals to avoid the
impoverished Gulf nation following months of unrest.
“We contacted various tribal leaders in Sanaa and in the provinces of Jawf and Marib to ensure their
cooperation for the release of the two women,” Yassine Makkaoui, the uncle of the Yemeni abductee, told AFP.
“We have also contacted, for the same reason, the interior ministry and the Huthis,” he added, referring to the
Shiite militia that has seized power in the capital.
Kidnappings are common in Yemen, where security has significantly worsened since the Huthis — also known as
Ansarullah — swept into Sanaa unopposed in September.
After their attempts to expand into southern and central Yemen were checked by fierce fighting with Al-Qaeda
and Sunni tribesmen, the Huthis moved to take power this month in what Yemen’s Gulf neighbours branded a
Makkaoui said he blamed the Shiite militia for the lack of security in the capital that allowed his niece and Prime
to be abducted.
“The kidnapping took place in broad daylight in the centre of Sanaa where the Huthis are responsible for
maintaining order,” Makkaoui said.
“They control both the ministries of defence and interior, and we hold them responsible” for the fate of the two
women, he added.
Prime and her Yemeni colleague were seized after their car was stopped by men dressed as police officers,
according to the Frenchwoman’s employer Ayala Consulting.
“There has been some contact” with the kidnappers, Francisco Ayala, president of the consulting firm based in
Miami and Ecuador, told AFP.
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”.
Militants have abducted Westerners in Yemen in the past. A US photojournalist and a South African teacher held
by Al-Qaeda were killed during a failed US rescue mission in December.
– Huthis ‘contributed’ to collapse –
Yemen, long on the front line in the fight against Al-Qaeda, has been wracked by violence since the ouster of
longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 following a year-long popular uprising.
Saleh’s successor Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi faced successive challenges after taking office, including waves of
attacks on security forces claimed by Al-Qaeda, and increasingly forceful calls for southern succession.
The Huthis surrounded the president’s residence in January, prompting Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to
tender their resignations.
Hadi reversed his decision on Tuesday after escaping house arrest in Sanaa, staking a claim to lead the country
out of crisis.
He resurfaced in Aden, capital of the formerly independent south Yemen. There he has attempted to resume his
duties and branded all measures adopted by the Huthis “null and illegitimate”.
Bahah remains under house arrest in Sanaa along with other ministers and offici