Yemeni officials: Rebels release slain ex-president’s sons

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s Shiite rebels on Wednesday released two sons of late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemeni officials said.

Omani officials and the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, helped negotiate the release of Salah and Madian Saleh, the officials said. Both sons were being flown to Jordan’s capital, Amman, they said.

The Yemeni officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. The sons’ release was confirmed by the Houthi rebels’ official news agency, SABA.

SABA’s report quoted an unnamed source as saying that Saleh’s sons were pardoned by Mahdi al-Mashat, the head of the rebels’ Supreme Political Council.

Jordan said Saleh’s sons arrived at Alia airport in Amman for a one-hour layover. A spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, Sabah al-Rafie, said they would depart to another country. She did not elaborate.

The sons had been in custody since the rebels killed Saleh, their onetime ally, when they gained the upper hand in days of fighting with Saleh’s forces for control of the capital Sanaa in December 2017.

Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades until an Arab Spring uprising forced him to step down in 2012. He later allied with the Houthi rebels — who he had gone to war with in the past — hoping to exploit their strength to return to power. He helped them capture Sanaa.

As the Houthis and their allies marched south and then threatened to capture the port city of Aden, Saudi Arabia announced in March 2015 it would lead a coalition of Arab nations to join the conflict.

Since then, Yemen has been embroiled in a war pitting the Saudi-led coalition backing the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Iran-aligned rebels. Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia and targeted vessels in the Red Sea.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, which has exacerbated what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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