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Yemen rebels free 290 prisoners in move hailed by UN, ICRC

  • Published at 04:08 pm September 30th, 2019
Detainees hug relatives after their release by the Houthis outside the central prison of Sanaa, Yemen on 30 September, 2019 Reuters

The Houthis recently announced the capture of hundreds of Yemeni loyalist forces in an August offensive near the Saudi border, but they were not among those freed on Monday

Yemen's Houthi rebels have freed 290 prisoners, including dozens of survivors from a Saudi-led coalition strike on a detention centre earlier this month, the ICRC said Monday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross hailed the move as "a positive step that will hopefully revive the release, transfer and repatriation of conflict-related detainees" under a deal struck last year between the rebels and Yemen's government.

The Houthis recently announced the capture of hundreds of Yemeni loyalist forces in an August offensive near the Saudi border, but they were not among those freed on Monday.

The United Nations' special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomed the initiative to "unilaterally release detainees."

"I hope this step will lead to further initiatives that will facilitate the exchange of all the conflict-related detainees as per the Stockholm Agreement," Griffiths said, referring to the 2018 accord.

He called on all parties to work together to speed up the release of prisoners, saying they and their families had "endured profound pain and suffering."

In a statement, he urged the parties to meet at the "nearest opportunity" to resume discussions on future exchanges.

The Houthis' own announcement on the prisoner release said there were 350 in the group, including three Saudis.

"We have presented to the United Nations a unilateral initiative to release 350 prisoners," Abdel Kader Mortaza, the Houthi official in charge of prisoner affairs, said at a press conference in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Mortaza reiterated Houthi claims that they had taken prisoner more than 2,000 fighters, including Saudi soldiers, in the August offensive near the southern Saudi region of Najran.

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