Officially bad: Houthis hold at least 4 American prisoners

Officially bad: Houthis hold at least 4 American prisoners
Houthis on a roll. (Image: AFP, Mohammed Huwais via Asharq al-Awsat)

[Ed. – But at least we weren’t all heavy-handed with a military-run evacuation of Americans or anything.]

The rebel group that has seized power in Yemen has taken at least four U.S. citizens prisoner, according to U.S. officials who said that efforts to secure the Americans’ release have faltered.

One of the prisoners had been cleared for release in recent days only to have that decision reversed by members of the Houthi rebellion that toppled the U.S.-backed government earlier this year and now controls most levers of power in Yemen.

The Americans are believed to be held at a prison in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, which has been bombed repeatedly as part of an air campaign led by Saudi Arabia aimed at dislodging the Houthis from power. The United States has provided intelligence support to that operation. …

U.S. officials said three of the prisoners worked in private­ sector jobs and that a fourth, whose occupation is unknown, has dual U.S.-Yemeni citizenship. The officials said none of the four were employees of the U.S. government. …

A fifth U.S. citizen, Sharif Mobley, is also in Houthi custody, in connection with terrorism ­related charges brought against him by the previous government more than five years ago. Mobley’s incarceration has been previously reported.

The recently detained prisoners are among dozens of U.S. citizens who were either unable to leave Yemen or chose to remain in the country after the U.S. government closed its embassy in February and began pulling out its employees and U.S. military personnel.

Details of the Americans’ detention remain murky, including where they are being held and whether they are together.

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