Two Americans, three Saudis and a Briton were in Oman yesterday after being released from months of detention by Yemeni rebels as they joined new talks with the UN peace envoy.
The six men were flown to the Omani capital, Muscat, with a rebel delegation attending the talks with envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who has been shuttling between the rival sides for months to end a conflict that has gripped Yemen for the past year.
Oman has kept out of a Saudi-led military campaign waged against the rebels since March in support of exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. It has provided both a neutral talks venue and a key mediating role in Yemen.
The White House confirmed that two of its citizens had been flown to Oman, where they were met by US consular staff.
New Orleans-based Transoceanic Development identified one of the pair as an employee who had been distributing relief supplies in Yemen.
Scott Darden, 45 — who has a 10-year-old son — was to yesterday be reunited with his wife in Oman, company spokesman Ken Luce said.
Darden was detained by Shiite Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in March, CNN cited a US administration official as saying.
The network named the other freed American as Sam Farran.
There was no word on the identities of the freed Briton or Saudis.
The Omani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had “responded to a request by the US administration to help in solving the issue of two US citizens held by Yemen security.”
“The sultanate’s humanitarian efforts also led to securing the release of three Saudis and a Briton, who were also held by Yemeni security services,” it said.
The Washington Post earlier this month reported that three Americans were being held by the rebels.
The third detained American was believed to be a 35-year-old convert to Islam who was teaching English in Yemen, the newspaper said.
US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price hailed the latest releases.
“This outcome underscores that we have been and will continue to be tireless in pursuing the release of all Americans detained abroad unjustly, including those who remain in the region,” he said.
In related news, Saudi-led warplanes yesterday pounded rebel positions in Sana’a as the rebels conducted a mass rally to celebrate the first anniversary of their seizure of the Yemeni capital.
Despite six months of coalition airstrikes in support of Hadi, expanded into a ground operation in late July, the rebels still control much of the north and center of the nation.
The pre-dawn airstrikes on Sana’a targeted Saleh’s supporters as well as the Shiite Houthi rebels, witnesses said.
One raid targeted the home of a leading lawmaker from Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, Ahmed al-Kahlani, the witnesses said.
Others targeted arms depots in the east of the capital controlled by pro-Saleh army units.
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