Attempts to rescue four US citizens being held by Iran-backed Houthis in Sanaa failed, according to Washington Post
At least four Americans are being held in Yemen by rebels who toppled the US backed government, the Washington Post reported late Friday.
Citing unnamed sources, the report says attempts to free the Americans have failed. The Americans are believed to be imprisoned in the capital Sanaa, which Saudi Arabia has repeatedly bombed in a campaign to oust the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, from power, the report said.
The Houthis had cleared one of the prisoners for release, but the report said members of the Houthi rebellion reversed that decision.
Three of the prisoners held private sector jobs, and the fourth holds dual US-Yemini citizenship. None is a US government employee, the report said.
The Post report said the newspaper is withholding details about the four, at the request of relatives and US officials, who cited safety concerns.
Aside from the four, one more American, Sharif Mobley, is also in Houthi custody. He’s been held for more than five years on terrorism-related charges brought by the previous government; his capture has been reported previously.
Few details were available. The US has limited contact with the Houthis. There was no official confirmation of the report from US or Yemeni officials.
The Post report said those most recently detained are among dozens of Americans who were unable to leave Yemen or who chose to remain in the country after the US closed its embassy.
The Houthis are part of a Shiite sect that receives backing from Iran.
The Houthi rebels and their allies took control of a strategic city in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa Saturday, security officials and witnesses said, as Saudi-led coalition warplanes continue airstrikes across the country in an effort to push back the rebels’ advance.
Security officials said the city of Saeed fell into the hands of the Houthis after some local tribal sheikhs and military leaders accepted money and weapons to facilitate their entry into the area. They say dozens of fighters were killed in the two-day long battle, along with six civilians.
The city of Saeed lies along key strategic routes to the eastern Yemeni province of Hadramawt and to the port city of Balhaf, home to a major liquefied natural gas terminal.
A Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Houthis since March 26. Saudi Arabia and the West accuse Iran of supporting the Houthis militarily, something Tehran and the rebels both deny. Meanwhile the ongoing fighting on the ground in Yemen pits the Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against supporters of embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Yemeni security and medical officials said at least eight civilians were killed Saturday as a result of violent clashes in Aden, Taiz and Marib.
In Marib, the center of much of Yemen’s oil industry, the spokesman for the area’s tribes, Saleh al-Anjaf, said tribal fighters were able to drive back the Houthis and their allies from positions east of Marib city. They were supported by coalition planes, he said.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Meanwhile, United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed held consultations with Yemeni political groups in the capital, Sanaa, after peace talks were indefinitely postponed earlier this week.
International aid groups say Yemen’s conflict has killed up to 2,000 people and wounded 8,000, while recent UN estimates have said that at least 1,037 civilians, including 130 women and 234 children, have been killed in the fighting.
Source: The Times of Israel