Rebels release foreign hostages, including 2 Americans
SANAA, Yemen (AP):
Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels have released six foreign hostages, including at least two Americans, and flown them to the Gulf country of Oman, which helped negotiate their release, officials said yesterday.
Houthi officials and authorities at the airport in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief reporters, said three Americans, two Saudis, and a British national detained earlier this year were released and flown to Oman.
The White House later confirmed that two Americans had been freed and sent to Oman, which it thanked for helping to secure their release. A statement from the National Security Council did not identify the Americans or detail the circumstances of their captivity or their release.
The White House said it had "worked tirelessly to secure the release" of the Americans since they were taken earlier this year.
"This outcome underscores that we have been, and will continue to be, tireless in pursuing the release of all Americans detained abroad unjustly, including those who remain in the region," the statement said.
A spokesman for a New Orleans-based logistics company, Transoceanic Development, confirmed that employee Scott Darden, 45, was freed. Darden was helping to deliver aid throughout the region for Transoceanic and relief organisations among its clients. It was not immediately clear who the other hostages were.
Yemen has been torn by a ferocious war pitting the Houthis and forces loyal to a former president against fighters loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists. The conflict escalated in March as a Saudi-led, United States-backed coalition launched airstrikes against the Houthis.
Officials from the Houthi media centre refused to explain why they had detained the hostages, but said at least one of them is a journalist who "entered the country illegally" and "worked without notifying the authorities". The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release information to reporters.