BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:00 P.M.) – Yemeni Houthi rebels, also known as Ansar Allah, and the country’s government have carried out a prisoner exchange, releasing a total of 275 people, a military source in Sanaa told Sputnik on Monday.
“The forces of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi released on Monday 165 prisoners loyal to Ansar Allah, while the Houthis released 110 Yemeni servicemen,” the source said.
According to the source, the exchange took place in the southeastern Al Bayda province. The majority of prisoners had reportedly been held in detention since last December, after fighting in the neighboring Shabwah province resulted in the Yemeni military establishing control over the area.
The exchange follows a reported release 650 supporters of assassinated former President Ali Abdullah Saleh by Yemeni Houthi insurgents on January 27, confirming earlier statements of an agreement between the Houthis and Saleh’s supporters, with Ansar Allah promising to release the former president’s allies, except for several of his relatives, revealed to Sputnik in January by a highly placed source from Saleh’s party General People’s Congress.
The former president was killed by the Houthis amid the larger conflict between the forces who remained loyal to the ex-president and the Houthi rebels. A short while before his death, Saleh severed ties with the Houthis, whom he supported in the conflict with the country’s internationally recognized government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Yemen has been engulfed in a violent conflict between the government headed by President Hadi and the Houthi movement since 2015, but the tensions in war-torn country had further escalated in November 2017, when former allied Houthis and units loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh started fighting, which resulted in the death of Saleh on December 4. The conflict was provoked by the Saleh’s readiness to start negotiations with the Saudi-led coalition provided that they lift the country’s blockade.
Since March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition of mostly Persian Gulf countries has been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis at Hadi’s request. Millions remain in need of immediate humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.