Whereabouts of missing aid worker remains a mystery

By The Middle East On line

Confusion still surrounds the whereabouts of Tunisian aid worker who was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen as she was leaving home for work in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa earlier this week.

Nouran Hawas, was head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) humanitarian protection programme at the agency’s Sanaa office. ICRC spokeswoman, Rima Kamal, said the gunmen kidnapped Hawas and a Yemeni man when they intercepted their ICRC vehicle on Tuesday morning. The man was released after several hours but Hawas was still being held.

“At this point we don’t know who is behind the abduction or what their motives are, but we are trying to appeal to those responsible to release our colleague,” Kamal told the Reuters news agency. “This incidence comes on top of many security incidents we have had, and it is deplorable,” she added.

A number of foreigners have been taken hostage in Yemen in the past 15 years, mostly by tribesmen as bargaining chips in negotiations with the government. Almost all have been freed unharmed. However, of particular concern is the fact that the latest abduction follows a raid by gunmen on the ICRC office in the Yemeni port city of Aden, forcing the agency to temporarily suspend its activities there.

Later, on 2 September, two ICRC employees were shot dead in the northern province of Amran by an unknown attacker. The two were Yemeni nationals returning from visiting an aid project in the far northern province of Saada, ICRC officials confirmed.

Sanaa is controlled by the Houthi militia, an Iran-allied group which seized control of much of the Arabian Peninsula country in a series of military operations that began last year. The capture of Sanaa provoked armed intervention in March by a Saudi-led Arab alliance, which has been waging an air strike campaign against the Houthis and allied soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.