Two US hostages held in Yemen released by Houthis

Two US hostages held in Yemen released by Houthis
John Kerry on Saturday said that Yemen's Houthi rebels released two US hostages as part of a deal that includes medical treatment for the recent funeral hall airstrike victims.
2 min read
16 October, 2016
Victims of the airstrike on a funeral hall with receive treatment under the deal [AFP]

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said that Yemen's Houthi rebels released two US hostages, without identifying the Americans.

Kerry said they were freed as part of complicated diplomatic arrangement that included airlifts for Yemenis wounded in the Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a funeral hall in the capital Sanaa this past week. The injured were taken to Oman for treatment.

Kerry said the US was also working to push for a ceasefire in Yemen that would allow the country's internationally recognised government and the Iran-backed Houthis to return to negotiations.

The state-run Oman News Agency said two Americans "held" in Yemen were released and flown to the sultanate following negotiations between Omani officials and "Yemeni authorities" in the capital, Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis and their allies.

Yemen's war pits the government against Houthi rebels and allied army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A Saudi-led coalition has been intervening on the side of the government since March 2015.

After peace talks broke down two months ago, the Saudi-led and US-backed coalition stepped up airstrikes and forced the closure of Sanaa's international airport.

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Negotiators representing the Houthis and their allies ended up stranded in Oman, but were allowed to return to Yemen under the latest deal.

The bombing of the packed funeral hall last weekend, which killed 140 people and wounded 600, appears to have galvanized diplomatic efforts.

An internal probe by the coalition said Saturday that the strike was carried out based on "wrong information" and had not been approved by the coalition's top command.

More than 100 people who were wounded in the funeral hall bombing have been allowed medical evacuation to seek treatment outside of Yemen, a Yemeni government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

Speaking to reporters in Switzerland, where he was attending talks on Syria, Kerry said a plane flew the Houthi delegation back to Yemen from the Omani capital, Muscat, and returned with people wounded in the funeral hall strike.

"This is something we've been working on for the last days," he said.

He said the effort "also secured the release of two American citizens from the Houthis. Their names are not being released."