Saudi-led alliance confirms Yemen prisoner swap | News | DW | 28.03.2016
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Saudi-led alliance confirms Yemen prisoner swap

The Saudi-led coalition fighting for control of Yemen says it has traded more than a hundred Shiite rebels for several Saudi prisoners. The swap took place amid renewed airstrikes on Al Qaeda positions in the south.

"Nine Saudi prisoners have been recovered and 109 Yemenis who were arrested in the military operations zone" have been handed over, the coalition said in a statement on Monday.

The trade was made on Sunday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

The statement didn't explain how the Saudis had been detained in Yemen, though it said the Yemenis held had been picked up in "areas of operations near the border of Saudi Arabia."

Positive sign

A separate statement from Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam described the swap as "a first step of understanding and respect for the humanitarian aspect [of the conflict]."

Saudi-led troops have been battling Shiite rebels known as Houthis for more than a year in support of Yemen's internationally recognized government led by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

They've pushed the rebels out of five southern provinces, including second city Aden, where Hadi has established a temporary capital.

But the rebels, who are allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, still control the capital Sanaa and eight of Yemen's 22 provinces.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group have also taken advantage of a war to seize territory and operate more openly and recently, coalition attention has turned to halting their advance.

On Friday, IS killed more than 20 people in three suicide attacks in Aden.

Air raids continue

On Sunday, the latest Saudi-led airstrikes and a suspected US drone attack killed 14 suspected al Qaeda fighters in Abyan province.

Six of them died when a government intelligence headquarters being used as a base was destroyed in the provincial capital Zinjibar.

The Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels have agreed to a cease-fire at midnight on April 10 ahead of peace talks starting April 18 in Kuwait.

Several previous ceasefires have not held but there is renewed hope around this latest round of talks.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting and millions are displaced within the country.