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Two US citizens held in Yemen freed: Oman state media

AFP  |  Muscat 

Two US citizens "held" in Yemen have been freed and were taken to Oman today after mediation by authorities in the nation, the state-run Oman Agency reported.

The agency, quoting an Omani foreign ministry spokesman, said the two Americans were brought to Oman aboard an aircraft that earlier today flew to the Yemeni capital to evacuate those wounded in air strikes on a funeral in Sanaa last week.

It did not identify the US nationals.

But it quoted the spokesman as saying that Oman mediated the release of the pair in order "to help the American government obtain the liberation of a number of Americans held in Yemen."

"Two of them were freed and taken this evening to the Sultanate of Oman aboard an Omani air force plane ahead of the repatriation," the spokesman added.

He said Omani authorities secured their release "in coordination with Yemeni parties in Sanaa", the capital which is under the control of the Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies, supporters of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

There have been dozens of kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen over the years, most of them by members of the country's heavily armed tribes seeking concessions from the authorities.

Since the Huthi rebels overran the capital in September 2014, they have detained several Westerners, most of whom have been released through Omani mediation.

On September 20, a US citizen who ran an English-language school in Sanaa was detained by men who said they were security officers working for the Huthis, witnesses said at the time.

A rebel leader later said the US national was detained for providing the Saudi-led coalition with target coordinates for its deadly campaign against the Iran-backed Huthis.

Today's release comes almost two weeks after a Franco-Tunisian Red Cross woman staffer kidnapped in Yemen almost a year ago was freed and taken to Muscat after Omani mediation.

A member of the six-nation Cooperation Council, Oman has good ties with countries outside the wealthy bloc including Iran and Yemen.

It is the only GCC country not to have joined the coalition air war against the Huthis and their allies in Yemen, although it maintains good relations with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Oman is also one of the few Arab countries to have a good relationship with Shiite Iran and has mediated between Tehran and Washington on prisoners in the past.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, October 16 2016. 00:48 IST