French aid worker released in Yemen, ICRC says

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 14, 2012 8:43 AM
French aid worker released in Yemen, ICRC says

GENEVA (Reuters) - A French aid worker kidnapped in northern Yemen nearly three months ago by armed men has been released and is in good health, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday.

Benjamin Malbrancke was abducted on April 21 near the town of Hodeida.

Referring to an al Qaeda-linked cell, ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva: "He was handed over to ICRC representatives by Ansar al-Sharia on Friday. We don't know who the abductors were."

Ansar al-Sharia swears allegiance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. officials have called the most dangerous offshoot of the militant network.

Asked whether any ransom had been paid for his release, Hassan said the ICRC had a clear policy of not paying ransom. "We did our best through regular means and channels of communication to find a positive resolution to this crisis."

In June, a Yemeni employee of the ICRC was killed by an air strike in Abyan province.

A local official told Reuters at the time that the Yemeni air force had conducted the strike that killed the aid worker who he said had been trying to contact al Qaeda militants in order to negotiate the release of his French colleague.

The ICRC had not previously named Malbrancke. It deploys more than 200 aid workers, including 60 expatriates who deliver medical and other assistance, perform surgery on war wounded, and visit detainees across Yemen.

"We are relieved and extremely happy to have our colleague back with us, in good health. His return marks the end of many long, hard days, full of anxiety for him and his family, as well as for the team here in Yemen and for his friends," said Eric Marclay, who heads the ICRC operations in the country.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)