Nov 11, 2021 - World

Iran-backed rebels detain Yemeni U.S. Embassy staff after breaching compound

The US Embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa is closed during protests on January 18, 2021

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The State Department on Thursday called on Iran-backed Houthi rebels to release Yemeni U.S. Embassy staff the fighters detained in the northern city of Sanaa after breaching the compound in the war-ravaged country.

Details: A State Department spokesperson in an emailed statement also called on the Houthis to "immediately vacate" the complex and "return all seized property." Most of those detained, who worked outside of the compound on duties including security, had been released, the spokesperson said.

"We are concerned that Yemeni staff of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa continue to be detained without explanation and we call for their immediate release."
— State Department spokesperson

Of note: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing when reports of the embassy workers' detention emerged on Tuesday that U.S. officials had been "unceasing in our behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to secure their release."

The big picture: The U.S. suspended embassy operations in Yemen in February 2015, some five months after the start of the country's ongoing civil between Houthi forces and a Saudi-led coalition that supports President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, as the rebels seized control of Sanaa.

  • President Biden in February announced plans to end U.S. support for pro-Hadi coalition offensive operations in Yemen amid a dire humanitarian crisis.
  • The Biden administration announced a month later that the U.S. would restore full humanitarian assistance funding to areas of rebel-held northern Yemen to help millions on the brink of famine.
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