Red Cross confirms staff kidnapped in Yemen

Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — Three Red Cross workers including a French national have been kidnapped while traveling in Yemen's restive south, officials said Wednesday.

The three — an International Committee of the Red Cross delegate and her Yemeni driver, and a staff member of the Yemeni Red Crescent— were delivering food to refugees when they were seized Tuesday in the province of Lahj north of the port city of Aden, said Marcal Izard, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva.

"We are in touch with the authorities and local elders to resolve the issue quickly," Izard told The Associated Press.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters in an online briefing Wednesday that the ICRC delegate was a French citizen.

Izard declined to confirm her nationality or provide other details on the identities of those kidnapped, but said the aid group was in direct telephone contact with its staff.

"They say they are being treated well," he added.

A Yemeni security official said Tuesday that the country's military was negotiating the aid workers' release with the Southern Movement, a secessionist group that wants independence for the south. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Security in Yemen has unraveled in recent months during an uprising against the 30-year reign of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The situation is particularly bad in the south, where al-Qaida-linked militants have taken control of entire towns.

Three French aid workers held by militants there for six months returned home last week.

Tribes in Yemen have historically used kidnapping as a way of getting concessions from the government and hostages were ordinarily well treated before being released.

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Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

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