Middle East

Saudi-led coalition transfers freed prisoners to Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen announced on Friday that it transferred more than 100 released prisoners to Yemen, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross, as part of a humanitarian initiative to support a United Nations (UN)-brokered truce.

The coalition announced last month that it would release 163 prisoners from the pro-Iran Houthi group, but a Houthi official later said that the list included individuals who were not affiliated with the movement.

The coalition disclosed that 108 detainees were flown from Saudi Arabia to Aden in southern Yemen, where the Saudi-backed Yemeni government is based, and nine to the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa. In a statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed the return of 117 people.

The coalition affirmed that 37 prisoners were transported by land across the Saudi-Yemeni border. At the same time, Saudi state media reported that nine “foreign fighters” were handed over to their embassies but did not specify nationalities.

A Yemeni government official told Reuters that the Houthis had refused to take back those transferred to Aden. The head of the Houthi prisoners’ affairs committee announced this month that the list of detainees includes people unknown to the movement and that they are not its prisoners.

READ: Arab coalition begins Houthi prisoners’ transfer from Saudi Arabia to Yemen

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis after the movement ousted the internationally-recognised government from Sanaa in late 2014.

The warring parties agreed to a two-month truce that began on 2 April, the first major breakthrough in years, as part of a UN-led effort to end a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a severe humanitarian crisis.

The parties also discussed a possible prisoner exchange under the auspices of the UN, including 1,400 Houthi prisoners and 823 coalition prisoners, including 16 Saudis.

The last major prisoner exchange between the two sides was in 2020, involving about 1,000 detainees.

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