Houthi rebels have announced the unconditional release of 350 prisoners including three Saudi Arabians days after the Yemeni group claimed to have captured thousands of Saudi troops following an ambush inside Saudi Arabia, according to Houthi-run Al Masirah TV.
A statement by the Houthi National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs (NCPA) carried by Al Masirah TV said the individuals were on the lists of persons drawn up as part of the prisoner exchange deal agreed in Stockholm in December.
The UN- brokered prisoner swap, one of the three pillars of the breakthrough deal, involving some 7,000 detainees on each side had stalled as the two sides struggled to agree at talks on its implementation.
“Our initiative proves our credibility in implementing the Sweden agreement and we call on the other party to take a comparable step,” said Abdul Qader al-Murtada, head of the NCPA, in statements carried by Houthi-run Al Masirah TV.
“We decided to release 350 prisoners because nothing from Sweden agreement have been achieved. The release is going take place today,” the NCPA statement read referring to the agreement reached between the Houthis and the Yemeni government.
The Iran-linked group said the release of the prisoners was a gesture of goodwill to the Saudi-UAE coalition, which has carried out bombing in support of the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi since 2015.
Abdel Qader al-Mortada, head of the NCPA, said at a press conference on Monday that the group includes three Saudis who will be transported home under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition, which receives arms and intelligence from Western countries, intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Yemeni government from power in the capital Sanaa in 2014.
The Houthis, who control most major urban areas, said on September 20 they would halt missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the alliance stopped its operations. The coalition has not yet responded to the proposal.