x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Peace deal sees 400 Houthi rebels freed in Yemen

The Yemeni government released more than 400 Houthi rebels as part of a Qatar-mediated peace deal with the northern rebels signed in August, a security official said on Thursday.

SANA'A // The Yemeni government released more than 400 Houthi rebels as part of a Qatar-mediated peace deal with the northern rebels signed in August, a security official said on Thursday.

The truce put an end to violence in a civil war that has raged on and off since 2004.

The official told Reuters the Houthi rebels were held in prisons in Sanaa and Saada in northern Yemen. He said more would be freed in the coming days, without providing figures.

A Qatari delegation met Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Aden this week to discuss the peace agreement, the official said. "(Qatar's) efforts being exerted at the moment are fruitful," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said the Houthis would return equipment seized in confrontations with the government as part of the peace deal.

Houthi rebels spokesman, Mohammed Abdul Salam, told Reuters that 426 Houthi prisoners were released on Thursday.

Qatar, trying to bolster its image as a regional Gulf Arab peacemaker, brokered a north Yemen peace accord in 2008 before the region slipped back into war, drawing in top oil exporter and regional power Saudi Arabia.

Yemen faced pressure from Saudi Arabia and Western powers to resolve domestic conflicts in order to focus on al Qaeda.

The impoverished country is struggling to combat a resurgent wing of al Qaeda based in the Arabian Peninsula state. It is also trying to quell a separatist rebellion in the south and maintain the shaky truce with Shi'ite insurgents in the north.