Source: AP, By AHMED AL-HAJ,
SANAA,-Three French aid workers abducted in Yemen are being held by men linked to the country's al-Qaida offshoot who are demanding $12 million in ransom, security officials and local tribesmen said Wednesday.
The two women and one man were abducted three months ago while working for the aid group Triangle Generation Humanitaire, which is based in Lyon, France. They were seized in eastern Yemen's Hadramawt province, which is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Intelligence chief Ghaleb al-Qamish and other senior government officials have asked prominent figures in the town of Sayoun to try to mediate their release, the security officials and tribesmen said.
They said the three were being held by al-Qaida members or by people affiliated with the militants. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
After the aid workers' disappearance on May 28, Yemeni officials initially said they feared the group had been taken by tribesmen, who frequently use abductions — including of foreigners — to press the government for concessions, such as the release of fellow tribesmen in prison.
In most of those cases, the captives are freed unharmed. In the past few years, however, al-Qaida has begun kidnapping foreigners as well, sometimes with lethal results.
The director of the French aid group, Patrick Verbruggen, said it has had no contact with the kidnappers since the abduction in May.
He said he had no information on whether the aid workers were being held by al-Qaida or if a ransom had been demanded.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Wednesday that the ministry also had not heard that the group is held by al-Qaida and that they are demanding a ransom.
"We have been fully mobilized since the beginning to obtain the release of our compatriots, and in their interest, we should observe the greatest discretion to preserve the effectiveness of our actions," he told an online briefing.