Saudi prisoner released by Yemen's Houthi rebels

Saudi prisoner released by Yemen's Houthi rebels
2 min read
29 January, 2019
A Saudi prisoner has been released by the Yemen's Houthi rebels, following UN efforts to strike a truce.
The Saudi prisoner returned home to Riyadh on Tuesday [ICRC Yemen]

A Saudi soldier held by Yemen's Houthi rebels has returned home, after the movement released the sick man on humanitarian grounds, the UN said on Tuesday.

Musa al-Awaji was reportedlyflown back to Riyadh from Sanaa on Tuesday on a Red Cross jet.

Houthi-affiliated al-Masirah TV said the soldier was released "without collateral as a humanitarian gesture". 

UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths welcomed to move, which follows months of efforts to end the war in Yemen, which has cost at least 13,000 lives.

"The special envoy welcomes the unconditional release... of the sick Saudi prisoner," Griffiths tweeted.

"The special envoy hopes to see more similar humanitarian gestures from the parties."

Awaji is the first prisoner to be released under a deal struck between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels at UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden last month, which will involve the exchange of 15,000 detainees. 

The prisoners' names have been submitted to UN mediators, although it has not been implemented yet. 

Griffiths is due to visit Hodeida later on Tuesday, the flashpoint Yemeni coastal city that has been the scene of fierce fighting by a UAE-led force. 

Griffiths acknowledged delays in implementing a prisoner exchange and a ceasefire in Yemen, despite efforts to establish a truce in Hodeida.

The Yemen conflict has killed at least 10,000 people since a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in support of the beleaguered government in March 2015, according to the World Health Organisation. 

Human rights groups believe the real death toll could be five times as high.

The war has pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine in what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.