Report: 2 Americans Held Hostage By Houthi Militants In Yemen Have Been Released
Two Americans held hostage by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen were freed on Wednesday as part of an agreement with the United States and Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal reported, marking the latest development in the nation’s support for Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen which Republican and Democratic lawmakers have criticized.
Houthi leaders agreed to release the two Americans if Saudi Arabia and its allies provided medical aid and permitted more than 200 Houthi militants to leave Oman and return to Yemen, U.S. and Saudi officials told the Wall Street Journal.
American humanitarian worker Sandra Loli, held hostage for about three years, and American businessman Mikael Gidada, held captive for about a year are now free, according to Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to Trump who worked on the deal.
The militants also sent the body of Bilal Fateen, an American who died, back to the U.S.
Saudi officials said they were reluctant to agree to the deal because Houthi militants have undermined the United Nation’s efforts to end the war and said the deal allows militants who received specialized training in Iran on drones and missiles to return to Yemen.
Patel said U.S. officials on the ground in Yemen and Oman made sure the militants who returned were not on any American terrorism lists, blocked some who were considered high-risk from returning and ensured no lethal aid was provided.
The White House, FBI, CIA and State Department all worked on the agreement led by Roger Carstens, the special envoy for hostage affairs, according to the Journal; Forbes reached out to the State Department for comment.
Last April, President Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution passed by Congress to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. Politicians from both parties have criticized the U.S. for giving Saudi Arabia and its allies military support, leading the Pentagon to pare back. There is continued debate in the Trump administration about whether Houthi militants should be considered a terrorist organization. Some Trump officials have said the Houthis should be included with al Qaeda, Islamic State and Hezbollah. The administration has not made the distinction due to concerns it could jeopardize aid going to Yemen citizens living in Houthi-controlled areas, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a video played at the Republican National Convention, Trump spoke with six former hostages and detainees. He said his administration has rescued over 50 Americans held in 22 countries.
Two Americans Held Hostage by Iran-Backed Forces in Yemen Freed in Trade (Wall Street Journal)
Trump vetoes measure to end US involvement in Yemen war (Associated Press)
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I'm a reporter at Forbes and the author of What Next?: Your Five-Year Plan for Life After College published by the Simon & Schuster imprint Adams Media. I have a