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Houthi Rebels Free 2 American Hostages in Yemen

FILE - A Houthi rebel is seen walking amid the rubble left by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sana'a, Yemen, Sept. 16, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the United States will continue to work to gain the freedom of all American hostages around the world and in the Middle East following the release of two Americans in Yemen.

Kerry said that securing the release of the Americans in Yemen has been a U.S. focus since it learned of their detention. He expressed thanks to the government of Oman, which negotiated with Houthi rebels to gain the freedom of the Americans and at least three other foreign hostages.

None of the hostages freed Sunday were immediately identified. But the New Orleans-based company Transoceanic Development, which helps deliver humanitarian aid, says one of its employees, Scott Darden, is among them.

White House spokesman Ned Price said the United States is deeply appreciative to all those who worked to free the captives, especially Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said.

"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," Price said.

Westerners held

Several other Westerners held in Yemen have been freed in recent months, some thanks to Omani mediation.

Yemeni tribesmen frequently have kidnapped Western hostages to try to win concessions from the government. Nearly all were eventually freed unharmed. But U.S. journalist Luke Somers and a teacher from South Africa, Pierre Korkie, were killed during a failed attempt by U.S. forces to rescue them from al-Qaida last year.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized Yemen's capital, Sana'a, last year, forcing the country’s internationally recognized government to relocate to Saudi Arabia.

Heavy fighting on the ground and Saudi-led airstrikes on the rebels have created a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, with 80 percent of its population in desperate need of food and aid.

The United States is demanding that all sides take part in peace talks without preconditions, saying it is clear the Yemeni people want the fighting to end as soon as possible.