The Iran-backed Houthis have yet to release the remaining Yemeni detainees employed by the US government, a State Department official said Friday.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has slammed the group for its detention of locally employed staff and its breach of the US Embassy in Sanaa.
“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the very recent and ongoing seizure of and intrusion into the compound formerly used as the US Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, by the Houthis, during which dozens of local employees were detained,” the Security Council said in a statement on Thursday.
Last month 30 local Yemeni staff were detained and subsequently released with the help of Washington’s regional partners, a State Department official told Al Arabiya English.
On Friday, the State Department said a majority of the detained had been released, “but the Houthis continue to detain additional Yemeni employees of the Embassy.”
“We are concerned that Yemeni staff of the US Embassy in Sana’a continue to be detained without explanation and we call for their immediate release,” the official said on Friday.
I condemn the Houthis’ detention of our staff and breach of the compound used by our Embassy in Sana’a prior to our 2015 suspension of operations. The Houthis must immediately release our staff unharmed and vacate the compound immediately.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) November 19, 2021
Secretary of State Antony Blinken later released a statement criticizing the Houthis’ detention and mistreatment of “dozens of Yemeni citizens and their family members simply because they have worked for the United States.”
Several of these employees are still being held, he said.
“These actions are an affront to the entire international community. The Houthis must immediately release unharmed all Yemeni employees of the United States, vacate the Embassy compound, return seized property, and cease their threats,” Blinken said.
Separately, it was revealed on Wednesday that the Houthis have also detained UN staff members, Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Two UN employees, both Yemenis, are still being held by the Houthis, despite being told by Houthi officials that they would be freed.
These are in addition to the US employees that were detained, according to State Department officials.
US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking is also in the region as part of his shuttle diplomacy to help end the yearslong war between the Iran-backed Houthis and the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
Washington’s renewed diplomatic efforts came after the election of President Joe Biden; however, one of his first foreign policy moves saw the Houthis removed from the terror blacklist. Additionally, the Biden administration lifted senior Houthi officials’ names off the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list.
Analysts say this emboldened the Houthis, which has been evident by the group’s escalated offensive on Marib. They have also refused to meet with UN diplomats on multiple occasions and continue to launch bomb-laden drones and ballistic missiles at civilian targets in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, the Biden administration sanctioned a senior Houthi official in a sign of its frustration with the lack of progress on a ceasefire. This is not the first time the Biden administration has sanctioned Houthi officials after initially revoking the terror designation.
*This article has been updated to include additional details about the detained US and UN employees.
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