International Red Cross vehicles
International Red Cross vehicles wait in convoy in 2011. A French staffer with the Red Cross who was kidnapped in Yemen in April was released two days ago and is now at the organisation's local headquarters in Sanaa, a government official said Saturday. © Aris Messinis - AFP/File
International Red Cross vehicles
AFP
Last updated: July 15, 2012

Kidnapped French Red Cross worker released in Yemen

A French staffer with the Red Cross who was kidnapped in Yemen in April was released two days ago and is now at the organisation's local headquarters in Sanaa, a government official said Saturday.

"The Frenchman was released two days ago and is now in the Red Cross headquarters in Sanaa from where he will travel" home, the official said.

Earlier, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced the release of Benjamin Malbrancke, abducted by gunmen on April 21 while on his way to the airport in the northern port city of Hudaida.

Two drivers captured at the same time were freed shortly afterwards.

"We are relieved and extremely happy that our colleague is back with us and in good health," a statement quoted Yemen director of operations Eric Marclay as saying.

He expressed his "profound gratitude to all those who gave us their support over these long weeks and have helped to enable Benjamin to rejoin his family soon".

An ICRC spokesman told AFP Malbrancke had arrived in Sanaa and would be flown to France as soon as possible.

The Yemeni official said Malbrancke, released through tribal mediation, had been held in a mountainous region between the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan across the south.

On June 20, Yemeni Red Cross worker Hussein Saleh was killed in air strikes that left 30 Al-Qaeda suspects dead in Mahfad.

A relative said he was killed as he travelled in the south along with the head of the ICRC for the southern port city of Aden on a mission to help negotiate the release of Malbrancke.

The ICRC had said Saleh died in unclear circumstances while on a humanitarian mission.

Foreigners are frequently kidnapped in Yemen by armed tribesmen, who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities.

More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years. The majority have been freed alive and well.

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