Accessibility links

US Calls for Immediate Release of its Citizens Detained in Yemen

  • VOA News

The United States is calling for the immediate release any U.S. Citizen detained by the Houthi-controlled National Security Bureau in Yemen.

Such detentions are “unacceptable” and put in jeopardy any Houthi efforts to establish that they are “credible and responsible interlocutors,” the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

They also pose serious questions about Houthis' commitment to seek a lasting peace for Yemen, the statement said, adding that if U.S. citizens held unjustly in Yemen were harmed, “it would be the responsibility of those organizations, groups, or individuals detaining them.”

An American English teacher in Yemen was detained last week in the capital Sanaa on suspicions of espionage.

Masked gunmen wearing the uniform of the rebels' national security service took Peter Willems from the principal's office of the Exceed Language Center he heads in Yemen’s capital.

Other Americans detained

Other Americans before Willems have been detained by Shiite rebels known as Houthis since they captured Sanaa in 2014, and are allied with security forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, backed by Iran.

In April, a U.S. citizen was flown out of Sanaa to Muscat after successful negotiations for his release by Oman, the only Gulf state which is not participating in the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels. Last November, Oman evacuated three Americans held by rebels on claims of spying. In September of last year, Oman also helped to negotiate the release of a Briton, two Americans and three Saudis.

The hostility to Washington has increased since the Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in March of last year with reconnaissance and refueling support from Washington.

Only a few Western nationals are still living and working in Sanaa. Western diplomats have long relocated to neighboring countries.