WASHINGTON: Two US citizens and held hostage by Iranian-backed militants in Yemen were released on Wednesday in exchange for the return of some 250 Houthi rebels from Oman, according to the White House and sources in the area.
Oman’s official media said the U.S. captives had been transported out of Yemen on an Omani airplane. It said that 250 “Yemeni brothers” who obtained treatment in Oman were returned to the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, on two flights as part of the exchange.
“The American government welcomes the release today of US citizens Sandra Loli and Mikael Gidada from Houthi prison in Yemen,” said Robert O’Brien, National Security Advisor. “We give our condolences to Bilal Fateen’s family, whose remains will also be repatriated.”
O’Brien did not mention the exchange, but thanked the leaders of Oman and Saudi Arabia for their help in securing the release of the Americans.
Kieran Ramsey, director of the administration’s hostage recovery cell, said Loli and Gidada would soon be on their way back to the United States.
“Tragically, one of these Americans died during his unlawful captivity,” Ramsey said.
Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to Trump who worked on the deal, told The Wall Street Journal that Loli had been held by the Houthis for about three years and Gidada was held captive for about a year.