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Yemen's Houthis, Saudi-backed militiamen exchange prisoners

Yemeni men chant slogans as they hold up Kalashikov assault rifles during a tribal meeting in the capital Sana’a on September 21, 2019, as tribesmen donate rations and funds to fighters loyal to the Houthi Ansarullah movement. (Photo by AFP)

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has announced the completion of separate prisoner swap deals with Saudi-sponsored Yemeni militiamen loyal to Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in the country’s northern province of al-Jawf and southern province of Shabwah.

The Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, citing head of the Houthi-affiliated National Committee for Prisoners Affairs (NCPA) Abdulqader Al-Mortada, reported on Friday that 13 members of the Yemeni Army and allied Popular Committees had been released, and that the agreement was through “a local mediation.”

Mortada, however, did not provide details about the number of released prisoners in return. 

Back on May 28, the NCPA said sixty-six imprisoned fighters of the Ansarullah movement had been released within the framework of an exchange deal with Saudi-backed militia forces.

Even though the committee did not provide any information at the time about the number of released prisoners in return, some Yemeni media outlets reported that Houthis had released nine pro-Hadi prisoners under the swap agreement.

Despite an ongoing failure to reach a comprehensive solution for Yemen’s crisis, prisoner swap deals take place now and then between the warring parties.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000  lives over the past four and a half years.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

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