A US State Department official said Sunday that “several” US citizens in Yemen have been kidnapped by the Houthi militia.
The exact number of Americans being detained is not well known. The official only mentioned that several were captured. He was reacting to press reports referring to the detention of at least four Americans. The United States will do “everything possible for these people to be released,” the official explained.
However, he denied any other information about them, particularly about where they are held and who their captors are. “The protection of American citizens abroad is the a top priority,” he continued.
At least three employees of the private sector?
According to the Sunday edition of The Washington Post, the Shiite Houthi rebels, who conquered swathes of Yemeni territory, “has captured at least four US citizens,” who would be held in a prison in Sana’a, the capital. But efforts to secure their release are complicated by the fact that Washington has no direct communication link with the rebels, according to the Post.
The newspaper, which refers to US officials speaking on condition of anonymity, said that three of the Americans work in the private sector and a fourth, whose occupation has not been specified, has double Yemeni and US citizenship. None are employed by the US government, the paper noted.
The Washington Post also wrote that a fifth American, Sharif Mobley, was also in the hands of the Houthis. His case was already known: he was sentenced there more than five years ago of offenses related to terrorism.
One of the prisoners was to be released in recent days but at the last moment, the Houthis have reversed their decision, the newspaper reported.
According to an unidentified US official, this prisoner was accused of having remained in Yemen after the expiration of his visa. Now, the rebels accuse him of having visited “sensitive” areas of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has been leading since March 26 an Arab coalition involving in an air campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, accused of links to Iran and wanting to take control of the entire country .