Houthis free 178 prisoners of war

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Houthis free 178 prisoners of war

Post  Ali Mortada on Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:58 am

Yemeni Houthis have released 178 prisoners they had captured during months of fighting and said they are complying with a ceasefire that ended the battles on February 12.

"Houthis led by Abdul Malek al-Houthi turned over 178 prisoners to us in (the northern city of) Sa'ada. Officers, soldiers, and civilians will be taken to Sana'a," mediator Ali Nasser Qersha said on Tuesday.

Qersha added that the Houthis had acted after receiving assurances from Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh that their prisoners would be released.

Earlier on Tuesday, Shia fighters in northern Yemen pledged to free soldiers they are holding within two days and said they expected that government-held prisoners would also be released.

"The prisoners of war will be freed within 48 hours and we expect our prisoners to be freed in return," Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam said.

"This issue, once resolved, will serve the cause of peace," he stated, adding that the Shia fighters have not dragged their feet in implementing the terms of the ceasefire.

He went on to say that the Houthis believe the army should return to its barracks in the north, but they have no objection to civil servants returning to their posts in the region.

The Yemeni government agreed to a ceasefire with the Houthi fighters on February 11, saying they hoped to put an end to a six-year war that has drawn in neighboring Saudi Arabia and diverted resources from the struggle against al-Qaeda's growing influence in the country.

President Saleh had announced that the ceasefire would take effect at midnight February 11 and that four committees would be formed to monitor compliance in the northern districts where the conflict has raged since 2004. The Houthi leader, Abdel Malik al-Houthi, also released a statement accepting the truce.

The ceasefire terms include the dismantlement of checkpoints, the release of prisoners, and the handover of Houthi weapons.

The conflict between Sana'a and Houthi fighters in northern Yemen began in 2004. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemeni army launched Operation Scorched Earth in an attempt to crush the fighters in the northern province of Sa'ada.

Saudi forces began fighting against Yemeni Shia resistance fighters, known as Houthis, and bombing their positions on November 4, 2009 after accusing the fighters of killing Saudi border guards.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that since 2004, up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa'ada and take refuge at overcrowded camps set up by the United Nations
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Ali Mortada

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