Two Americans held hostage by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen were freed on Wednesday as part of a US-backed trade that returned more than 200 of the group’s worshipers to the fractured Middle East country , according to US and Saudi officials.
A Royal Oman Air Force plane carrying the two Americans and the remains of a third took off from the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sana’a hours after the jet and an accompanying flight brought militants back to the country after years stranded in Oman.
The agreement guaranteed the freedom of Sandra Loli, an American aid worker held hostage by the Houthis for 16 months, and Mikael Gidada, an American businessman detained for more than a year, said Kash Patel, assistant Assistant to President Trump who worked on the deal. . The pact also provided for the return of the remains of Bilal Fateen, a third American detained by the Houthis. US officials provided only limited information on the three Americans, but said they were urgently working to secure the deal as Ms Loli’s health was declining. The agreement also included the delivery of medical aid to Yemen.Saudi officials have said they reluctantly back the deal, which they say would allow dozens of Houthi militants trained on drones and advanced missiles to return to the combat zone. Mr Patel said the United States is working to ensure that the Houthis returning to Yemen do not pose a major risk.
Houthi officials described the exchange as “a favor for a favor” and said those allowed to return from Oman included Yemeni students and civilians injured during the war. In total, Houthi officials said 240 people returned to Oman flights on Wednesday.
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of the Houthi political council, said Wednesday that the Americans had been detained for participating in suspicious activity in Yemen.
“There are a lot of Americans who visit the Republic of Yemen, and they work safely in Yemen, but if they were just citizens who were not involved in suspicious acts or violations of the law, they will not be subject to anything, ”Mr. al-Houthi told me.
US officials have dismissed the suspicious activity allegation as unfounded.
With the support of the United States, Saudi Arabia and its Middle Eastern allies fought a five-year-old battle against Iranian-backed fighters in Yemen, who toppled the government and seized the country’s capital from Gulf in 2014. The United Nations tried on several occasions to negotiate. the end of the war in Yemen, which, according to the international body, is the country of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.