French woman kidnapped in Yemen returns to France

AP News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2015 4:22 PM
French woman kidnapped in Yemen returns to France

PARIS (AP) — A French woman who was abducted in Yemen in February along with her translator arrived back in France Friday after being freed.

Isabelle Prime, 31, had been working in Yemen for the World Bank for about a year when she was kidnapped.

Smiling and wearing a blue cap and sunglasses, Prime stepped out of a French government jet around 1710 GMT and was met by French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, as well as several friends and family members.

"My detention lasted about five months, but I knew France was behind me because it never gives up on one of its citizens," Prime said in a brief statement at the airfield outside Paris where she landed. She gave no details about the circumstances of her capture or her time as a hostage.

The state-run Oman News Agency quoted an unidentified official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirming that Prime arrived in the sultanate early Friday in preparation for her repatriation to France. Oman played a role in negotiating her release in coordination with "some Yemeni parties" following a request for help from the French government, according to the report.

Fabius said France paid no ransom.

"France does not pay but we are at the same time very attentive to the human reality. What counts at the end of the chain is that we end up recovering our own," he told BFM television. "You can imagine these are complicated negotiations."

Oman borders Yemen and stands apart from its Gulf Arab neighbors in maintaining cordial relations with Iran, which backs the Shiite Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.

The Arabian Peninsula nation has played a role in facilitating the release of other captives, including American freelance journalist Casey Coombs, who was released by Shiite Houthi rebels earlier this year.

It also was an intermediary in the release of three American hikers detained by Iran along the Iraqi border in 2009. One of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, was released after more than 13 months in custody. Fellow hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were later convicted as spies but then set free a year after Shourd's release.

Details of Prime's release, including who was holding her, weren't divulged.

Prime was abducted in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, along with her Yemeni translator, who was released shortly afterward.

Earlier this year, a video surfaced showing Prime pleading for help. In the video, she appeared frail and anguished, and she urged the leaders of France and Yemen to allow her to return to France.

Chaos is rampant in Yemen, with pro-government forces battling Shiite rebels.

Omani and French embassy officials in Muscat could not be reached for further comment, and government offices closed for the local weekend.

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Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this story.