Finally—a hostage crisis that didn’t end in bloodshed. (Yet.)
Today Houthi rebels released the first of several American hostages currently being held in Yemen. Casey L. Coombs was held by the Iranian-backed group for two weeks in the capital city of Sanaa before his family was informed of his successful transfer out of the country and into neighboring Oman.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Coombs, who lived in Sana, Yemen’s capital, was arrested by Houthi militiamen there in mid-May, and traveled to neighboring Oman on Monday. He was scheduled to undergo a medical evaluation there before flying home to Seattle, his mother, Jill Marie Hammill, said in a telephone interview.
Ms. Hammill said she had received a call from the International Committee of the Red Cross early Monday saying that Mr. Coombs was at the Sana airport and was preparing to leave Yemen. She was able to speak to her son on Monday afternoon, after he arrived in Oman.
“I cannot describe how happy I am,” she said.
Mr. Coombs has written for publications including The Intercept, The American Prospect and Time magazine.
The Obama administration has said a number of Americans have been detained by the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group that took control of Yemen’s capital and forced the United States-backed Yemeni government from power earlier this year.
American officials have confirmed that the Houthi are holding at least three other American citizens, but would not confirm a hard number, or elaborate on potential hostage situations outside Sanaa.
What’s unsettling about the developing hostage crisis is that no one can confirm why the hostages were taken:
They were detained at different times over the past week to 10 days, the officials said. However, the circumstances under which they were taken into custody is unclear.
It is also unclear why they were detained. At first, the Yemenis thought the Houthis took them to gain leverage on peace talks with the government, but that seems to have been ruled out. Because the rebels have made no demands, officials are not sure about the motives.
“It looks like they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” the Yemeni official said.
There is no indication the Americans have been physically harmed.
There are “multiple channels” that have been opened to speak to the Houthis to try and secure the Americans’ release, according to the Yemeni official, including Yemeni representatives who have ties to the rebels, NGOs and “other countries.”
If someone scribbled “to scare the crap out of journalists and freak out their home countries” on the official State Department dry erase board, I think that would be as good a guess as any.
Jennifer Griffin explains the overall situation:
We’ll keep you updated on the status of the other Americans held by the Houthi as new information comes available.DONATE
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