A French woman in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, has been kidnapped by gunmen amid political crisis and deteriorating security conditions following the takeover of the U.S.-backed Yemeni government by Shiite Houthi rebels, according to various media reports.
“We are seeking to locate her and we will do everything so that she can be freed,” said French President François Hollande.
President Hollande revealed that the 30-year-old woman was abducted in front of a ministry building in Sanaa. The French leader urged French citizens to stay away from Yemen and other areas where a “danger of abduction and danger of terrorism” exists.
The French foreign ministry confirmed the kidnapping and also urged its citizens to leave Yemen as soon as possible.
France, the U.S., Britain, and other countries closed their embassies in Sanaa and exhorted their compatriots to vacate the country after the Houthis overran the Yemeni government in Sanaa earlier this month.
“The [French] woman was employed by a consulting firm, which works for the Social Welfare Fund of Yemen with funding from the World Bank. The Washington-based institution said the woman was kidnapped along with a Yemeni woman working for the same firm,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
BBC reports that the French woman’s Yemeni driver was also kidnapped. The French woman was abducted while she was on her way to work.
“The unidentified gunmen intercepted the vehicle on 45th Street and led the 30-year-old woman… and the driver to an unknown location,” unnamed security sources told Al Jazeera.
“Kidnappings are common in Yemen, a country of 25 million where disgruntled tribesmen have frequently seized foreigners to push the government to provide them with services or to free jailed relatives,” notes Al Jazeera.
Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is considered one the most potent and active terrorist groups.
“While the Houthis oppose al-Qaida, they also are hostile to the U.S. and critics say Shiite power Iran backs their territorial gains — something the rebels deny,” reported The Associated Press on February 7.