French Hostage Isabelle Prime to Return Home From Yemen

A French hostage was due to return home Friday after months of captivity in war-torn Yemen, France’s foreign minister said.

Isabelle Prime, a consultant on a World Bank-funded development project, was kidnapped on Feb. 24 in Yemen’s capital San’a.

Ms. Prime is with French authorities and will meet her family and French President François Hollande Friday night at a military air base in Villacoublay, a town southwest of Paris, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

Former French hostage Isabelle Prime, right, who was kidnapped in Yemen, is greeted by French President François Hollande upon her arrival at Villacoublay's airbase, near Paris, on Friday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Former French hostage Isabelle Prime, right, who was kidnapped in Yemen, is greeted by French President François Hollande upon her arrival at Villacoublay’s airbase, near Paris, on Friday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The French government thanked Oman for helping arrange her release. The foreign ministry declined to comment on who held her captive, or how she was released.

France has long denied allegations of paying ransoms to free other hostages held in conflict zones.

“The liberation of Isabelle Prime shows again that France never abandons its own,” Mr. Fabius said.

In an interview Friday with French television news channel BFMTV, Mr. Fabius said the negotiations took “several months” and that no ransom was paid.

Ms. Prime was abducted along with Shereen Makawi, a Yemeni translator. Her assailants posed as policemen and forced the pair into a car on a busy street in the center of the city, local security officials said at the time.

Ms. Makawi was released in March, but Ms. Prime remained in captivity. A video emerged in June in which Ms. Prime asked Mr. Hollande and Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s exiled president, to secure her release. The French foreign ministry confirmed the video’s authenticity.

While it was never clear who were Ms. Prime’s captors, armed groups in Yemen have long exploited security gaps and political instability to carry out kidnappings. Western captives are often sold on by their original captors to other groups, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Kidnapped American photographer Luke Somers died last December in a botched assault by U.S. Special Forces on an AQAP compound where he was being held.

Another American journalist, Casey Coombs, was kidnapped earlier this year by Yemen’s Houthi rebels before being released in June as a result of U.S. diplomatic efforts. U.S. authorities acknowledged at the time that his release was also assisted by the government of Oman.

The recent kidnappings come amid a worsening security situation that has allowed extremism to

thrive in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

The Houthis, a movement that adheres to the Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam, seized power from the president, Mr. Hadi, in February. The following month, Mr. Hadi fled to his ally, northern neighbor Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia then assembled a military coalition of mostly Arab states in late March to carry out airstrikes in Yemen, aiming to unseat the Houthis and restore Mr. Hadi to power. Those strikes—combined with coalition-allied ground actions—are continuing.