French aid group mulls Yemen staff pullback

Three staffers are feared to be kidnapped in the troubled country.

Aden: French aid group Triangle Generation Humanitaire said on Sunday it may evacuate many of its dozen expatriate staff from Yemen after three staffers were feared kidnapped in the troubled country.

"We are looking at repatriating a large number of our team on the ground," the NGO`s co-director Christian Lombard told a news agency of the group that has worked in the Arabian Peninsula country since 1998 on water and agriculture projects.

A decision would be taken on Monday or Tuesday, he said.

Three Triangle Generation Humanitaire staffers -- two women and a man -- went missing on Saturday, and a Yemeni security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "The most likely thing is that they have been kidnapped."

The three, all in their thirties, have been working together with a group of 17 Yemenis in Seyun in the southeastern Hadramawt province since March, the Lyon-based organisation said.

They were reported missing when they failed to return to their residence from their nearby office for lunch.

A Yemeni security official said on Sunday there was still no news of the missing trio.

The Common Forum, an opposition alliance of parties demanding the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in a statement condemned the "kidnapping" of the three and called for their immediate release.

It said the incident followed "the positions of France in support of the demands of the Yemeni people and their peaceful revolution," a reference to Paris on May 12 condemning "the excessive use of force" against protesters.

"It may look like a kidnapping, since they disappeared yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, but we have no information to confirm that," said Lombard, adding that he was "in regular contact" with the group`s Yemen representative.

He said none of the missing three had received threats and that the team was "perfectly calm in the region."

Foreigners have frequently been kidnapped in Yemen by tribes who use the tactic to pressure the authorities into making concessions.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Yemen during the past 15 years, with almost all of them later freed unharmed.

Bureau Report

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