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Three French aid workers home after being held hostage in Yemen

November 14, 2011 |  3:41 pm

Three French aid workers held hostage in Yemen
Three French aid workers who were held hostage in Yemen for more than five months returned home Monday after they were freed over the weekend.

Neighboring Oman negotiated their release and may have paid an unspecified ransom to their captors, according to wire service reports.

The two women and a man from the French charity Triangle Generation Humanitaire crossed the border into Oman late Sunday and were flown Monday to Al-Seeb airbase near Muscat on an Omani military plane, Agence France Press reported.

They then boarded a French plane home. Prime Minister Alain Juppe greeted the aid workers on their arrival at Villacoublay military airport, west of Paris.  

In a brief statement issued to journalists in Oman, the three thanked the country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, for his help and said they were “very happy to go back to our families and to be finally free,” AFP said. Their names were not released.

Oman also helped negotiate the release of three American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage, which they denied.

Militants linked to Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen had threatened to kill the French aid workers unless they were paid $12 million.

A tribal mediator told AFP that an unspecified amount was paid, but French officials said the country does not pay ransoms.

The three were seized from a restaurant May 28 in Yemen's eastern Hadramawt province, which is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


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-- Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles

Photo: Three French aid workers held hostage in Yemen since May are seen after disembarking a plane in Muscat after their release Nov. 14, 2011. Credit: Sultan Hassani / Reuters