U.S. hostage freed; Ye­men pounded

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Zaid Al-Alayaa and Laura King laura.king@la­times.com Twit­ter: @lau­rak­ingLAT Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Al-Alayaa re­ported from Sana and Times staff writer King from Cairo. Staff writer Paul Richter in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this re­port.

SANA, Ye­men — An Amer­i­can free­lance jour­nal­ist who had been held by in­sur­gents in Ye­men since last month has been freed, U.S. of­fi­cials and news re­ports said Mon­day.

News of the re­lease of Casey Coombs, one of sev­eral Amer­i­cans be­lieved to have been de­tained by the Shi­ite Mus­lim rebels known as Houthis, came as a video sur­faced of a French­woman who was be­ing held separately in Ye­men, tear­fully plead­ing for her free­dom.

The State Depart­ment con­firmed that Coombs had ar­rived in the Persian Gulf state of Oman. State Depart­ment spokes­woman Marie Harf told re­porters in Wash­ing­ton that he was in “sta­ble” con­di­tion but pro­vided no de­tails.

Coombs’ re­lease co­in­cided with deadly new vi­o­lence in Ye­men, an im­pov­er­ished but strate­gic state that has been dev­as­tated by a Saudiled air of­fen­sive, now in its third month.

A wave of heavy ex­plo­sions rocked Sana, the cap­i­tal, be­fore dawn and lasted into the evening Mon­day, killing at least 20 peo­ple, Ye­men’s Health Min­istry said.

Bom­bard­ments be­gin­ning about 1 a.m. tar­geted Houthi po­si­tions, in­clud­ing the area around the pres­i­den­tial palace and a base on Mt. Nuqum on the cap­i­tal city’s eastern out­skirts. Ca­su­al­ties were also re­ported at a school in the south­east­ern dis­trict of Mu­saik where dis­placed peo­ple had been shel­ter­ing.

Am­bu­lance sirens wailed and huge plumes of smoke rose into the air as ter­ri­fied civil­ians f led.

More strikes took place in the strate­gic port city of Aden and the south­ern town of Dali, res­i­dents and of­fi­cials said.

The air of­fen­sive led by neigh­bor­ing Saudi Ara­bia against the in­sur­gents and their al­lies has been widely crit­i­cized by in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups for en­dan­ger­ing civil­ians. About 2,000 peo­ple, many of them non­com­bat­ants, have died in the bomb­ing cam­paign that be­gan March 26.

Strikes on weapons caches of­ten trig­ger sec­ondary blasts and send shrap­nel f ly­ing into densely pop­u­lated neigh­bor­hoods. That hap­pened again in Mon­day’s bom­bard­ment, with pow­er­ful ex­plo­sions closely fol­low­ing one an­other.

The Lon­don-based rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional also said last week that Houthi an­ti­air­craft mu- ni­tions have killed or maimed dozens of civil­ians.

Air raids on the Mt. Nuqum area and else­where in Sana on Wed­nes­day killed more than three dozen peo­ple. Com­bined with fa­tal­i­ties from strikes on sev­eral other ar­eas, it was thought to have been the dead­li­est day of the air of­fen­sive.

Mean­while, a video was posted on YouTube show­ing the 30-year-old French­woman who was snatched off the street in Sana by un­known ab­duc­tors in Fe­bru­ary, a few weeks be­fore the start of the air war.

The video, which was au­then­ti­cated by French of­fi­cials although the date it was shot could not be es­tab­lished, showed Is­abelle Prime, a con­sul­tant to the World Bank, ap­peal­ing for help from the French and Ye­meni gov­ern­ments.

A Ye­meni woman who had been act­ing as Prime’s in­ter­preter was cap­tured as well but was later freed.

Yahya Arhab Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

A HO­TEL used by Houthi rebels in Sana, Ye­men, was hit by Saudi-led airstrikes re­cently. On Mon­day, bomb­ings in Sana killed at least 20, Ye­meni au­thor­i­ties said.

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