Oct. 14 (UPI) — Houthi rebels in Yemen agreed to release two U.S. hostages in exchange for the release of 200 militants held in Oman, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien said the Houthis released U.S. citizens Mikael Gidada and Sandra Loli. The remains of Bilal Fateen also will be repatriated to the United States as part of the negotiations.
“We extend our sincerest thanks to Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman and King Salman of Saudi Arabia for their efforts to secure the release of our citizens,” O’Brien said.
“President [Donald] Trump continues to prioritize securing the release and repatriation of Americans held hostage abroad. We will not rest until those held are home with their loved ones.”
As part of the agreement, Saudi Arabia and its allies must provide medical aid to the Houthis in addition to the release of the 200 militants, The Wall Street Journal reported citing U.S. and Saudi officials.
Gidada, a businessman, has been held in Yemen for about a year and Loli, a humanitarian worker, has been held for three years. A Royal Oman Air Force plane flew them out of Sana’a, Yemen, shortly after the aid and militants were delivered to the rebels.
Kash Patel, an assistant to Trump, said U.S. officials worked to make sure none of the released Houthis was on any U.S. terrorism lists.
Yemen has been locked in a civil war since 2014, between the Saudi-backed government of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who initially supported former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who died in 2017.
Houthis captured the capital of Sanaa in 2014, forcing Hadi to flee to the port city of Aden.
Rebels currently control a swath of western Yemen, including the capital, while the Hadi-led government controls much of the east.
The Southern Transitional Council, a separatist group that’s declared self-rule, has laid claim to Aden and other locations throughout the country. The group has called for the separation of southern Yemen from the rest of the country.
The STC signed a power-sharing agreement with Hadi in November.