Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN chief demands release of aid workers in Yemen

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks in New York City, June 5, 2024.
FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks in New York City, June 5, 2024.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for the immediate release of all staff held in Yemen by de facto Houthi authorities.

The Iran-backed rebels on Monday announced that they’d arrested 13 U.N. staffers, claiming that their employer was linked to the CIA and that they had been conducting "espionage" operations in the country for years.

Four other U.N. personnel have been detained in the country since they were arrested in 2021 and 2023. They have had no access to their agency or families.

Meeting with Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg on Tuesday, Guterres said that he rejects the allegations and is deeply worried about the conditions the detainees are being held in.

“This is an alarming development that raises serious concerns about the Houthis’ commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict. The United Nations condemns all arbitrary detention of civilians,” Guterres said in a statement. “I demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained U.N. personnel.”

The 13 detainees are from numerous organizations including the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), U.N. Development Program (UNDP) and UNESCO.

The Houthis seized control of Sanaa in September 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention on behalf of the government the following March.

The long civil war has led to a humanitarian aid crisis in which, according to U.N. data, 17.6 million people face food insecurity and many young children suffer from stunted growth. Aid workers are much needed in Yemen and their detentions can lead to detrimental effects.

U.N. officials met on Monday with chief Houthi negotiator Mohamed Abdul Salam in an effort to secure release of the aid workers.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.