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Houthi prisoners released by Saudi arrive in Yemeni capital

November 28, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Supporters of the Houthis in Sanaa, Yemen on 21 September 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

A group of Houthi prisoners released by Saudi Arabia arrived in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Thursday, Reuters witnesses said, in a step that may encourage efforts to end a nearly five-year war in the country, Reuters reported.

The detainees are from the Iran-aligned movement that a Saudi-led military coalition has been fighting since March 2015, after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government in Sanaa.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which transported the detainees from Saudi Arabia to Yemen, said 128 people were being repatriated. On Tuesday, the coalition said it had released 200 prisoners. The reason for the difference in numbers was not immediately clear.

READ: Houthis announce 350 dead and injured, including Saudi and Emirati soldiers

Reuters witnesses saw two ICRC planes carrying the detainees arrive at Sanaa airport.

“The ICRC sees the release as a positive step and hopes that it will spur further releases and repatriations of conflict-related detainees,” the aid agency said in a statement. It said it had acted as a neutral intermediary and was not involved in any of the talks that preceded the release.

Riyadh has been holding informal talks with the Houthis since late September about a ceasefire, sources have said, as it seeks to exit an unpopular war after its main coalition partner the United Arab Emirates withdrew troops.

The United Nations is trying to restart political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

The conflict is seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.