ICRC worker abducted in Sanaa in December freed, taken to Oman

Reuters, AP

A Red Cross worker kidnapped 10 months ago in Yemen was freed on Monday and taken to neighbouring Oman, Omani state news agency ONA and the ICRC said.

French-Tunisian Nourane Houas, a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Sanaa, had been kidnapped along with a Yemeni man by unidentified gunmen who intercepted their vehicle in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

The man was released hours later but Houas was held in an unknown location.

ONA quoted an Omani foreign ministry official as saying France had asked Oman to try to locate her.

“The concerned authorities in the sultanate, and in coordination with some Yemeni parties, managed to find the aforementioned woman in Yemen and transferred her to the sultanate this evening, in preparation to repatriate her home,” ONA said.

The agency gave no further details.

The ICRC confirmed Houas had reached Oman after being freed with Omani help.

“We are relieved and thankful that Nourane is now back with us, safe and sound,” Alexandre Faite, ICRC head of delegation in Yemen, said in a statement.

“Her abduction was a terrible ordeal for her, as well as for her family, friends and colleagues. And it has obviously dealt a real blow to our humanitarian work in Yemen.”

The Gulf Arab sultanate has several times used its good ties with Yemen’s dominant Houthi group to free Western nationals who disappeared or been detained in Yemen.

Sanaa is controlled by the Houthi militia, an Iran-allied group that seized control of much of Yemen from September last year.

The capture of Sanaa provoked armed intervention in March by a Saudi-led Arab alliance, which has since been waging an air campaign against the Houthis and allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Two ICRC employees were shot dead by unknown gunmen in September last year in the northern province of Amran. The two Yemeni nationals had been returning from an aid project in the northern province of Saada.

On Aug. 25, gunmen raided the ICRC office in the Yemeni port city of Aden, which is controlled by the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi, forcing the agency to temporarily Houas was kidnapped on her way to work in Sanaa on Dec. 1 by unidentified assailants.

She appeared in a video in May asking President Francois Hollande to save her life.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction. The abduction of foreigners is common in Yemen, where militant groups such as al-Qaida and tribesmen use hostages to raise funds through ransom payments or bargain for the release of prisoners.