Yemen's pro-gov't forces, Houthi rebels agree to exchange prisoners

December 17, 2015 7:09 am 

ADEN, Dec. 16 — Pro-government forces and the Shiite Houthi group in Yemen agreed Wednesday to swap hundreds of prisoners of war under the framework of UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland, a local military official told Xinhua.

As many as 370 Houthi rebels are expected to be released from Aden's jails in exchange for 280 fighters loyal to the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi held in the central prison in Sanaa, according to the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen will observe the exchange process expected in the southern province of Lahj, the source said.

Yemeni Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Subaihi and other high-ranking political prisoners were not included in the swap, the official said.

There was no immediate confirmation of the exchange from pro-Houthi authorities in Sanaa.

A tribal chief told Xinhua that the prisoner swap came after weeks of mediation efforts by tribal leaders, but he said the latest prisoner exchange was not related to the ongoing peace talks in Switzerland.

Both sides have been holding hundreds of prisoners from months of fighting. However, the exact number of captives is unknown.

Yemen was plunged into violence in September 2014 when the Shiite Houthi group invaded the country's capital Sanaa, driving president Hadi into exile.

The conflict soon turned into an all-out civil war between pro- government forces and Houthi rebels backed by troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, followed by the intervention of a Saudi-led Arab coalition vowing to restore the legitimate government of Hadi.

The almost daily air raids by the Saudi-led alliance and fighting on the ground have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and forced many others flee their homes. (PNA/Xinhua)

BNB/EDS

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