Middle East

Yemen conflict: French-Tunisian hostage Nourane Houas freed

Nourane Houas speaks to an Omani journalist in Muscat (4 October 2016) Image copyright Oman News Agency via AP
Image caption Upon her arrival in Muscat, Nourane Houas thanked Oman for its role in securing her release

A French-Tunisian woman who was kidnapped in Yemen last December while working for the International Committee of the Red Cross has been released.

Nourane Houas was flown to Oman after being freed on Monday, the ICRC said.

Oman said her release had been secured at the request of the French authorities and "in co-ordination with Yemeni parties" whom it did not name.

Ms Houas was seized by armed men on her way to work in the capital Sanaa, which is controlled by Houthi rebels.

She was travelling with a colleague when their car was intercepted, but her colleague was released unharmed a few hours later.

No group has said it was behind the abduction, and the ICRC has said it will not comment on the identity of the armed men who seized her, their motives or the details of her release.

"We are relieved and thankful that Nourane is now back with us, safe and sound," said the ICRC head of delegation in Yemen, Alexandre Faite.

"Her abduction was a terrible ordeal for her, as well as for her family, friends and colleagues. And it has obviously dealt a real blow to our humanitarian work."

After landing in Muscat on an Omani air force flight, Ms Houas thanked "the sultanate, without which [her] release would not have happened", according to the official ONA news agency.

French President Francois Hollande praised her "courage during her long detention", adding that he "shares in her family's joy" over her release.

He also "expressed his gratitude to all those who allowed for a happy ending to this ordeal", notably Oman's Sultan Qaboos.

Oman declined to join the Saudi-led coalition that launched a military campaign in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis took full control of Sanaa and forced the country's government into exile, and has mediated between the warring parties.

The United Nations estimates that at least 3,800 civilians have been killed and 6,700 others injured in the fighting, while three million others have been displaced.