Kidnapped French woman, two Yemenis freed in Yemen

ADEN Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:18pm IST

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ADEN (Reuters) - Gunmen in Yemen freed a French woman and two Yemenis working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday, two days after they were abducted in the southern province of Lahej, local officials said.

They said the woman, who is of Moroccan origin, her driver and translator were freed after local officials and mediators intervened with kidnappers demanding the release of relatives held by Yemeni authorities in the nearby southern port of Aden.

"The Lahej governor has presented assurances that he will seek the release of four people held in Aden, as demanded by the kidnappers," a local official said. He said the three were unharmed and were on their way home.

In Geneva, ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard confirmed the release and said the three were "fine". They were now back at their base in Aden, he said.

The abduction occurred as the woman was travelling with the two aides to distribute food rations and household items in a camp housing people displaced by fighting between Islamist and government troops in Abyan, another southern province.

Kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are common, often linked to disputes between tribes and central government authorities, whose hold over parts of the south is tenuous.

Three French aid workers held hostage by Yemeni tribesmen for over five months were freed earlier this month after mediation by neighbouring Oman, which tribesmen said paid a ransom on behalf of the French government.

Ten months of protests demanding the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule have paralysed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, and its political deadlock has reignited conflicts with separatists and Islamists.

Saleh on Wednesday signed an accord mediated by Gulf neighbours to transfer powers to his deputy.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf and Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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