Iran-backed Houthis Detain 25 Yemenis Working for U.S.
(Bloomberg) -- At least 25 Yemenis working for the U.S. in Sanaa have been detained in recent weeks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Those rounded up include Yemenis working for the U.S. embassy and USAID, the international development arm of the American government, according to the people, who declined to be named as they weren’t authorized to discuss the detentions.
The motivation for the arrests, which took place over the past three weeks, wasn’t clear but they come as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia push for an end to the war in Yemen. The U.S. embassy was shut in 2015 after the Houthis took the capital, but some local staff continue to work from home or as security guards for the premises.
The U.S. is extremely concerned by reports of detentions of some of its local Yemeni employees in Sanaa, said a spokesperson for the State Department. The U.S. calls on the Houthis to immediately release unharmed all employees and end any harassment of its staff, the spokesperson said.
There was no immediate comment from the Houthis or the Saudi-backed government fighting to regain control of the country.
Yemen has been torn apart by a civil war that began in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and has since drawn in neighboring Saudi Arabia. The conflict caused one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises, as millions of Yemenis struggle to get enough to eat.
Two years ago, a Houthi assault on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil facility knocked out half the production capacity in the world’s biggest oil exporter, roiling global markets.
Saudi proposals to halt the fighting have been met with scant interest from the Houthis, who diplomats say see little reason to back down after successfully taking over swathes of Yemen.
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