Image: Waris Dirie
Peer Grimm  /  EPA
UN special envoy and ex-model Waris Dirie arrives on the red carpet at the charity gala "Cinema for Peace" in Berlin, Germany, in early February.
updated 3/7/2008 1:13:35 PM ET 2008-03-07T18:13:35

Waris Dirie, the Somali-born supermodel and former James Bond girl who launched a worldwide campaign against female genital mutilation, has been found by police in central Brussels three days after she disappeared, says Estelle Arpigny, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.

Dirie was found Friday hours after police announced a nationwide search for Dirie, who was last seen getting into a cab after a mix-up over a hotel in the early hours of Wednesday.

Arpigny said Dirie was being questioned by police about the disappearance and appeared to be in good health.

Dirie had not been seen since the early hours of Wednesday morning when police saw her getting into a taxi after a mix-up over a hotel room, Walter Lutschinger said in a telephone interview.

Somali-born Dirie gained international fame as a model posing in Chanel ads and acting in a James Bond film before launching her campaign against female genital mutilation 1996.

News of Dirie's disappearance comes a week after French police said they had found the body of another former model of African origin who had campaigned against female genital mutilation. Guinean-born Katoucha Niane was discovered floating in the River Seine in Paris.

The French police said an autopsy showed no signs of foul play, raising the possibility that she may have fallen accidentally into the river.

Altercation at hotel
Belgian police launched an official missing persons appeal for Dirie, asking the public for information.

The police, who gave her name as Waris Dahir Jones, said the 43-year-old was last seen outside a luxury hotel in downtown Brussels. They said she was wearing brown pants, a violet hat and a black-and-white poncho-style jacket. They said they were also looking for the taxi driver who took her from the area between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Dirie, who now lives in Vienna, was due to speak to two conferences on women's rights organized by the European Union in Brussels this week, including one Thursday attended by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Lutschinger said Dirie had been involved in an altercation in a hotel reception area after a taxi driver took her to the wrong branch of the Sofitel hotel chain after a visit to a night club. The police were called and drove Dirie around Brussels looking for the correct hotel because she had she apparently forgotten where she was staying.

At one hotel, while staff and police were checking for her name on a computer, Lutschinger said police told him Dirie walked out and climbed into a taxi that drove away. He said hotel staff told him Dirie had said she was going to buy cigarettes.

EU officials said they had expressed concern when she did not show up Thursday at the conference and had been in touch with the police, but had not had any news of Dirie's whereabouts.

Shocked the world
Dirie is an Austrian citizen. Dirie was due to travel to the Netherlands to receive an award for her campaigning Friday in the town of Kerkrade.

Dirie's description of how she had to endure having her genitals sliced off with a dirty razor blade without anesthesia, and then stitched together, shocked a world that knew her from glossy fashion magazine covers, Chanel perfume ads and her role in "The Living Daylights," a 1987 James Bond film.

She chronicled her own experience in "Desert Flower" and three sequels, "Desert Dawn," "Desert Children" and "Nomad's Daughter." She served as a U.N. goodwill ambassador to fight the practice.

"There are millions of children — young, hopeless, desperate — who need help, a voice, somebody, somewhere," she told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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