By Adom M. Cooper
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
SANAA, Yemen–While traveling from a northern part of Yemen to the Red Sea port city of Hudaida, a French official working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reportedly been kidnapped by armed men. The identity of the official was not disclosed.
It is not yet clear who is responsible for the kidnapping, although it is not uncommon for Westerners to fall victim to such actions. Last week, Al-Qaeda announced that it was holding Saudi diplomat Abdullah al-Khalidi, a deputy counsel in Aden, who was abducted outside his home in the southern port city on 28 March 2012.
A Swiss woman working as a teacher was also kidnapped in Hudaida in March. The French news agency AFP reported that she is being held by Al-Qaeda after being taken to the far eastern province of Shabwa.
Dibeh Fakhr, an ICRC spokeswoman in Sanaa, stated that the kidnapped man works in the northern city of Sadaa and that the kidnapping occurred late on Saturday 21 April 2012, approximately 30 km from Hudaida.
“He was with two Yemeni drivers who the kidnappers released shortly afterwards. Until now, we have no contact with the kidnappers or our employee.”
The kidnapping comes amid a fresh round of fighting between the military and the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda in the southern city of Zinjibar. The fighting cost 19 individuals their lives and nearly 30 others were injured during clashes between the group and government forces, who have taken control of the eastern part of the city.
The battle represents repeated attempts by the Yemeni government to regain parts of the country that it has lost to Al-Qaeda fighters who took advantage of last year’s violent uprising against the former ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Zinjibar is the capital of the Abyan province and holds particular military significance for the government’s ability to drive Al-Qaeda out of the southern Yemeni territories. The coastal city also lies near several vital shipping lanes and millions of barrels of oil pass through them every single day.
According to medical officials, the fighters who had lost their lives were buried near the town of Jaar and turned a kindergarten there into a field hospital in order to treat the wounded. The school also now functions as a command center for the fighters, especially considering that the violence has not allowed the children an opportunity to attend and learn.
On Friday 20 April 2012, the Yemeni defense ministry reported that in the town of Lawdar, another town in the Abyan province, at least 250 Al-Qaeda fighters and 37 government soldiers had been killed in two weeks of extended fighting. The ministry said that it was sending more troops to the area to attempt to cut down on the fighting. With all of the violence occurring in the country, one can only hope that the kidnapped ICRC worker is not forgotten.
For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera – Red Cross Official Kidnapped in Yemen – 22 April 2012
CNN – French ICRC Official Kidnapped in Yemen – 22 April 2012
Reuters – International Committee of Red Cross Aide Abducted in Yemen – 22 April 2012
BBC – French Red Cross Official Kidnapped in Yemen – 21 April 2012