Saudi-led coalition frees, returns 7 Yemen rebels: UN

Dubai (AFP) –


The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen released seven Huthi rebel prisoners on Wednesday and returned them to Sanaa, the United Nations said.

The office of UN envoy Martin Griffiths said he was "very encouraged by this positive spirit from the two parties", following the release of a first Saudi prisoner on Tuesday.

The seven Huthis were transferred from Riyadh to rebel-held Sanaa by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN said.

The ICRC, which is overseeing a broader prisoner swap between the warring sides, confirmed it had flown seven Yemenis to Sanaa.

"Another hope for many families separated by the conflict in Yemen," the organisation wrote on Twitter.

The return of the Huthi detainees comes a day after the rebels released the first prisoner under a deal between the rebels and the Saudi-backed government.

The two parties agreed to exchange 15,000 detainees and have submitted lists of prisoners' names to UN mediators.

The swap is part of a broader accord reached at UN-brokered talks in Sweden last month aimed at ending Yemen's conflict which has left millions at risk of starvation.

Some 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition intervened four years ago, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the death toll could be five times higher.