Yemen's Houthi rebels have released foreigners held hostage for several months, including at least two Americans, two Saudis and a Briton, several media outlets reported. One of them is said to be a reporter accused of working in the country without proper documents.
There are no details on the identities of the released. Reports suggest one is a journalist, who “entered the country illegally" and "worked without notifying the authorities," the Associated Press reported citing Houthi officials. AFP also said the six had been liberated.
#BREAKING Yemen rebels free 3 Americans, 2 Saudis, 1 Briton: security officials
— AFP news agency (@AFP) September 20, 2015
The six are now bound for Oman, which took part in negotiating their release, officials at the airport in Sanaa told the agency.
However, there are conflicting reports on the hostages’ release. On Sunday, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam held a press conference at Sanaa’s airport and refused to confirm the information. "If we were to release anyone, it would be in exchange for the release of Houthis," he told reporters. Reuters later said talks were still underway.
The Washington Post reported later on Sunday, citing US officials, that two of the three American hostages have been released with the assistance of the Sultan of Oman.
The two have been identified as Scott Darden, 45, an employee of a Louisiana-based logistics company and Sam Farran, 54, a security consultant from Michigan, according to the report. They were detained on March 27 by Yemeni security in Sanaa, when the Saudi-led coalition began its airstrikes.
The other US citizen — a 35-year-old Muslim convert who had been in Yemen teaching English – is reportedly still being held for reasons unknown.
Many foreigners have been captured and released by the Shiite Houthis in recent years. In August, a British oil worker, Bob Semple, held in Yemen for over 18 months was rescued by United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces during a military intelligence operation.
In 2014, Houthi rebels took control of large swathes of Yemen, including Sanaa, prompting Saudi-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his ministers to flee in January 2015.
A Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes targeting positions held by the Houthis and other anti-government forces since March.
— RT (@RT_com) September 16, 2015
On Sunday, airstrikes hit a prison facility in the western province of Ibb killing 11 and wounding more than 50 rebels and civilians, according to security officials.
They said the Houthis were holding more than 300 prisoners underground there.
On Friday, coalition air raids killed at least 40 civilians and injured another 130 people in Sanaa, according to the Yemen News Agency (SABA). The airstrikes also hit the residence of Oman’s ambassador in the Yemeni capital.