Saudi-led coalition claims to have begun transporting released detainees to Yemen

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Yemen YemenOn Friday, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said that it has begun transferring freed detainees to Yemen in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as part of a humanitarian move to support a UN-brokered cease-fire.

Last month, the coalition announced the release of 163 inmates from Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi organization who battled Saudi Arabia, but a Houthi spokesperson later claimed the list included people who were not members of the movement.

Bashir Omar, the ICRC’s Yemeni spokeswoman, told Reuters that 108 inmates will be transported from Saudi Arabia to Aden, Yemen’s southern port city, where the Saudi-backed government is located, and nine to Sanaa, the Houthi-held capital.

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Two planes had already left for Yemen, and a third was on its way, according to the coalition. Saudi state news agency SPA stated that it was giving up “foreign combatants” to respective embassies, without identifying nationalities or numbers.

The Houthis only consented to take nine captives, according to a Yemeni government official, so the remainder were transported to Aden. The chairman of the Houthis’ prisoner affairs committee claimed earlier this month that the list of captives included persons “unknown to us and not among our inmates.”

After the Houthis overthrew the internationally recognized government in Sanaa in late 2014, the coalition invaded in Yemen in March 2015. The warring sides agreed to a two-month cease-fire, which began on April 2, marking the first major breakthrough in years in UN-led attempts to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and created a humanitarian catastrophe.

They were also negotiating a possible prisoner swap involving 1,400 Houthi inmates and 823 coalition captives, including 16 Saudis, under the auspices of the United Nations. The most recent large prisoner swap, which involved roughly 1,000 convicts, occurred in 2020.

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