Middle East

Yemen Houthi rebels free six foreign hostages

Houthi followers in Sanaa, 11 September 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Houthi rebels have held the capital Sanaa for a year

Yemen's Houthi rebels have released six foreign hostages including at least two Americans, two Saudis and a Briton, officials say.

There are no details on their identity. They have been flown from the capital Sanaa to neighbouring Oman.

Shia Houthi rebels have seized much of Yemen, including Sanaa, since last year. They are fighting government troops aided by a Saudi-led coalition.

Many foreigners have been taken hostage in Yemen in recent years.

Reports say the six involved in the latest incident were captured several months ago, and at least one was a journalist detained after entering the country without notifying the rebel authorities.

The US and UK governments confirmed late on Sunday that two Americans and one Briton who had been held had arrived in Oman.

The authorities in Oman are believed to have helped secure their release.

Gulf state mediation

Oman has a history of facilitating the release of captives in Yemen, including French World Bank employee Isabelle Prime who was freed last month by unidentified militants and American journalist Casey Coombs, freed by Houthi rebels earlier this year.

In August, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) brokered talks with the local branch of al-Qaeda resulting in the release of British hostage Robert Semple.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Isabelle Prime was freed last month after six months of captivity by identified militants

But in December last year al-Qaeda militants killed a UK-born US journalist and South African teacher during a failed rescue bid by US and Yemeni special forces.

The Saudi-led coalition is trying to restore exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who left as the Houthis swept across Yemen last year.

Coalition countries helped southern militiamen opposed to the Houthis retake the southern port city of Aden in July. Pro-government forces have advanced northwards since then.

The UN says some 4,500 people - including at least 2,110 civilians - have been killed in fighting on the ground and by coalition air strikes since late March.