Swiss woman kidnapped by al-Qaida freed in Yemen

2013-02-27 21:58:39 GMT2013-02-28 05:58:39(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SANAA, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- A Swiss woman kidnapped by the al- Qaida wing in Yemen for one year was released on Wednesday, an official of the Yemeni Interior Ministry told Xinhua.

"Sylvia Abrahat, the Swiss teacher who worked in an English- language school in the western port city of al-Hodayda and was snatched by al-Qaida militants in March last year was freed Wednesday by a tribal mediation," the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

"Abrahat was handed over to the government authorities in the southeastern province of Shabwa, where the negotiations took place, " the official said, declining to clarify what were the demands of the al-Qaida.

Meanwhile, a specialist on al-Qaida issues confirmed the " successful negotiations" that led to the release of the Swiss woman.

"I was informed tonight from sources close to the tribal mediators and al-Qaida militants that the negotiations over the release of the Swiss hostage has ended successfully earlier Wednesday," Abdelrazak al-Jamal told Xinhua by phone.

"No information about the details of the agreed deal has yet been available," he said.

Foreigners are frequently kidnapped in Yemen by al-Qaida militants or tribesmen who asked for ransoms or the release of their jailed fellows. Most of the kidnapped have been freed unharmed.

The Yemen-based al-Qaida wing, the most active terrorist network in the Middle East, is also holding a Saudi diplomat captive for almost one year, as well as three Europeans, a Finnish couple and an Austrian, for nearly two months.

On Tuesday, Yemeni government officials said that tribal chiefs began mediation efforts to secure the release of three Europeans held hostage by the al-Qaida wing last December.

"The act came after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi received a phone call from European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, during which the president promised to run mediation efforts on all levels to free the hostages," an official of the Presidential Palace told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Officials said they demanded a ransom of millions of euros during talks over the past month to release the Europeans, while al-Qaida stipulated the release of jailed women in Saudi Arabia in return for the release of the Saudi diplomat.

The Finnish couple and their Austrian friend, who studied Arabic language in a school in the old city of the capital Sanaa, were snatched on Dec. 21, 2012 from a busy street in central Sanaa.

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