Daily Trust

US hostages re­leased in Ye­men 'pris­oner swap'

- Middle East News · Politics · Yemen · Oman · United States of America · U.S. State Department · Salman of Saudi Arabia · Saudi Arabia · Donald Trump · Sanaa · Muscat · The Gulf Cooperation Council · United Nations · Stockholm · Robert C. O'Brien · O'Brien · The Wall

Two US hostages held by Houthi rebels in Ye­men have been re­leased, seem­ingly as part of a large pris­oner ex­change.

San­dra Loli, a hu­man­i­tar­ian worker held for about three years, and busi­ness­man Mikael Gi­dada, held for about one, were freed yes­ter­day, US of­fi­cials said. The re­mains of a third US cap­tive, Bi­lal Fa­teen, were repa­tri­ated as well.

It comes af­ter the Houthis re­ported re­ceiv­ing more than 200 Ye­me­nis from Oman, where many had been stranded af­ter re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment.

A much-an­tic­i­pated swap between Ye­men's in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised, Saudi-backed govern­ment and the Houthi rebels had been ex­pected to take place to­day.

In a state­ment, the US state depart­ment wel­comed the re­lease of Ms Loli and Mr Gi­dada, and ex­tended its con­do­lences to the fam­ily of Mr Fa­teen.

US na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Robert O'Brien thanked Sul­tan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman and King Sal­man of Saudi Ara­bia for their as­sis­tance, and cred­ited Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for his sup­port.

A Houthi spokesman, Mo­hammed Ab­dul­salam, ear­lier tweeted that the 240 or so Ye­me­nis who re­turned to the Ye­meni cap­i­tal, Sanaa, in­cluded ei­ther peo­ple who had been stranded or who were in­jured and had trav­elled to the Omani cap­i­tal Mus­cat to re­ceive med­i­cal treat­ment.

Mr Ab­dul­salam added that they in­cluded ca­su­al­ties who had trav­elled to the Gulf state dur­ing UN-bro­kered peace talks between the war­ring par­ties in Stock­holm in 2018. "The United Nations did not bring [them] back" in line with the agree­ment reached, he said.

Mr Ab­dul­salam also thanked Oman for its "hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts" but did not men­tion the re­lease of US hostages.

The Wall Street Jour­nal, which broke the news about the US hostages, said the state depart­ment had been work­ing ur­gently to se­cure the deal be­cause Ms Loli was in ill-health. It re­ported the deal also in­cluded de­liv­ery of med­i­cal aid for Ye­men.

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