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Swiss woman freed from kidnappers in Yemen

Thursday - 2/28/2013, 9:00am  ET

DAVID RISING
Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) -- A Swiss researcher kidnapped almost a year ago in Yemen was released in good health and flown to Qatar, whose government helped negotiate her release, authorities said Thursday.

The woman, identified by Swiss authorities in Qatar as Sylvia Abrahat, 35, made no comment to reporters as she arrived late Wednesday at the VIP section of Doha International Airport, responding to journalists' questions with only "no, no."

Abrahat, wearing jeans and a brown jacket with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, appeared tired as she walked through the airport, but showed no visible signs of injury or abuse.

She was seized March 13, 2012, in the port city of Hodeida where she worked as a researcher at an institute.

The Swiss foreign ministry said in a written statement that she had been freed Wednesday.

"She is currently in the care of representatives of the foreign ministry and will be returned to Switzerland as soon as possible," spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger said.

He added that she did not appear to have suffered any physical injuries.

"Her state of health is overall good, considering the circumstances," he said.

Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri, Qatar's assistant foreign minister for foreign affairs, said his country's negotiating team had been "working during the past few months silently, and with wisdom and patience" to secure Abrahat's release, the official Qatari News Agency reported.

At the time Abrahat was kidnapped, Yemeni security officials said she had been abducted by tribesmen, but tribesmen in the area denied that, saying instead she had been taken by militants to the southern province of Shabwa, an al-Qaida stronghold.

Kidnapping of foreigners is frequent in Yemen, where hostages are used as bargaining chips to secure the release of Yemeni prisoners or to get cash.

Eltschinger did not give any details on who may have been behind the kidnapping, but told The Associated Press "Switzerland paid no ransom."

He added it was help from Qatar that made the release possible.

"The Swiss government expresses its great gratitude to the state of Qatar for having led these negotiations so effectively," he said.

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Abdullah Rebhy contributed to this story from Doha, Qatar


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