French World Bank employee kidnapped in Yemen

2015-02-24 18:28

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Paris - France said on Tuesday a 30-year-old woman working for the World Bank was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in the Yemeni capital and urged its citizens to quickly leave the country.

"We unfortunately confirm the kidnapping this morning in Sana'a of a French citizen," the foreign ministry said in a statement, urging "all our compatriots to leave the country as fast as possible".

Yemen has descended into chaos since Shi'ite Huthi militia swept into Sana'a from their mountain stronghold in the north last year, eventually prompting the president and prime minister to resign.

A Yemeni security source said the woman, who is as yet unidentified, and her local guide were abducted in the centre of the capital while in a taxi.

French President Francois Hollande called for the woman to be released "as soon as possible", adding that authorities were working to locate her.

The Huthis overran Sana'a in September, and then last month they seized the presidential palace and key government buildings and encircled the houses of senior officials in what authorities called a coup attempt.

That plunged the country deeper into crisis and prompted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to tender their resignations.

Earlier this month, the Huthis announced they had dissolved parliament and installed a "presidential council" to fill the power vacuum.

They have continued their advance south and west into mainly Sunni areas, where they have met with fierce resistance from tribesmen and Yemen's powerful branch of al-Qaeda.

Faced with the worsening security situation, France joined a long line of countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United States, Egypt and Germany in shuttering its embassy in Sana'a.

On Saturday, Hadi made a surprise escape after weeks under house arrest and resurfaced in Aden, the capital of formerly independent south Yemen, where he resumed his duties and said all measures taken by the Huthis were "null and illegitimate".

An aide to Hadi said he had sent a letter withdrawing the resignation to Yemen's parliament, which had never met to formally accept it.

Bahah, who tendered his resignation at the same time as Hadi, remains under house arrest in Sana'a along with other ministers and officials.

Hadi is a southerner who spent nearly three decades in the north, serving as defence minister and vice president. He became president in 2012 after long-time strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power by a year-long uprising.

A number of Western nationals have been taken hostage in Yemen in recent years. In December, US journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were killed by al-Qaeda militants in the southern Shabwa region during a failed US-Yemeni rescue bid.

Read more on:    yemen

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