Isabelle Prime kidnap: French aid consultant snatched in Yemen was due to fly home this week

Ms Prime and her Yemeni colleague were snatched from their taxi by gunmen near a ministry building in the capital on Tuesday

A French national kidnapped in Yemen had been planning to return to France this week, after staying in the country to wrap up the aid programme she was working on, according to her employer.

Isabelle Prime, 30, had been working for Ayala Consulting on a development project funded by the World Bank. She and her Yemeni colleague Shereen Makawi were snatched from their taxi by gunmen near a ministry building in the south of Sanaa, the capital, on Tuesday. No group has so far claimed responsibility.

France had warned its nationals to leave Yemen two weeks ago, but Ms Prime had stayed behind to liaise with aid agencies, her organisation’s president, Francisco Ayala, told The Independent from its headquarters in Ecuador.

She was the consultancy’s last foreign employee in Yemen and was planning to return to France at the end of the month, Mr Ayala said.

France has since renewed its calls for its citizens to leave the country. Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister, said Yemen was “in a state of anarchy” and President François Hollande reiterated his assurance that France was doing “everything possible” to secure the release of the two women.

French intelligence services are thought to have focused part of their investigation on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the global network’s most active affiliates.

In 2011 the group released three French aid workers they had kept captive for six months. Local tribes have been known to hand over foreign nationals to AQAP in return for money.

Mr Ayala said the family of Ms Makawi were trying to contact local tribes. He added he was “hopeful” that an agreement could be reached.

France, along with other European countries and the US, closed its embassy in Sanaa earlier this month.

Yemen’s political apparatus was dismantled in January after the Houthi militia group overran President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s presidential palace, dissolving parliament on 6 February.