American held in Yemen freed; French hostage pleads for help

2015-06-01 20:15
Isabelle Prime (AP)

Isabelle Prime (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sana'a -One of several Americans held by Iranian-backed Shi'ite rebels in Yemen was set free on Monday, a US official said, as a French hostage abducted in Yemen by an unknown party appeared in a video pleading for help.

The rebels, known as Houthis, seized the capital last year and have been the target of a US-backed and Saudi-led air campaign since March 26. The deal to release the American, who was not immediately identified, was mediated by Oman.

The released American, who had been injured in unknown circumstances, was on his way to Oman, according to the US official, who was not authorised to publicly discuss the matter because of privacy rules and spoke on condition of anonymity. No details on the identity of the freed captive were immediately available.

A video meanwhile surfaced showing Frenchwoman Isabelle Prime, a World Bank consultant who was kidnapped in February, pleading for help. The Associated Press viewed the video on Monday.

Prime was abducted in the rebel-held capital, Sana'a, along with her Yemeni translator, who was released shortly afterward. There was no word until now on her fate.

'I am really, really tired' 

The Houthis control the capital, but Yemen is also home to a powerful local al-Qaeda affiliate that has carried out attacks in Sana'a and which has abducted foreigners in the past to trade for ransom or imprisoned militants.

In the video, Prime appeared sitting in the desert dressed in a black robe and looking frail and anguished. She addressed French President Francois Hollande and Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by name, saying, "Please bring me to France fast because I am really, really tired."

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal said his government has verified the authenticity of the video and that it was filmed in April. Nadal said officials from the ministry will meet with the Prime family on Tuesday.

He told AP that the French government is "mobilised to obtain the release" of Prime.

Word of four abducted Americans first surfaced on Friday when The Washington Post reported that three held private sector jobs, and that the fourth holds dual US-Yemeni citizenship. It said the Americans are believed to be imprisoned in Sana'a. A day later, the state department said it was working to win the release of several Americans detained in Yemen.

Another American, Sharif Mobley, has been held in unclear circumstances for more than five years. Terrorism charges against him were dropped by a court during the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in the face of massive protests in 2012. But Mobley was never released, and was accused of killing a prison guard during an escape attempt. He is now believed to be in the custody of the Houthis, who are allied with Saleh.

The Post report said the four most recently detained are among dozens of Americans who were unable to leave Yemen or who chose to remain in the country after the US closed its embassy following the Houthis' capture of the capital.

The Saudi-led coalition launched its air campaign on March 26 in a bid to roll back the rebels and restore to power President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia that month in the face of a rebel advance on the south. But two months of bombing have done little to push back the Houthis and allied military units loyal to Saleh.

The air strikes and ground fighting have killed more than 1 000 civilians and displaced a half million people, according to the UN.

On Monday, coalition war planes bombed the capital, targeting weapons depots in nearby Noqoum mountain. An Associated Press video showed heavy smoke rising from the mountain as explosions rocked the area.

The ongoing fighting forced a ship carrying food aid to change course. The ship, chartered by the United Nations World Food Program, was destined for the Yemeni port of Aden, but port authorities warned it to change direction because of the fighting and head to the western Red Sea port city of Hodeida, a statement from the group said.

Read more on:    us  |  france  |  yemen

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.