Washington (Times Of Ocean)- In January, Saudi Arabia and the United States carried out a joint operation to rescue two young American women held captive by the Iranian-backed Houthi movement in Sanaa, a source said on Thursday.
The women, both 19 and 20, were flown from Sanaa to Aden, in the southern part of Yemen, and then to Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, where they underwent health checks and other care, the source said.
The Saudi Ministry of Defence confirmed the operation in a statement on Friday, saying the Saudi Air Force flew the women to Riyadh from Aden.
According to the source, who declined to reveal the women’s identifies or other information, the pair returned to the United States.
“We assisted in the safe return of two Americans from an area of Yemen controlled by the Houthis,” a State Department spokesperson said. “We are grateful for the assistance of our Saudi and Yemeni partners in facilitating their safe departure, but due to privacy concerns, we cannot provide further details.”
In March 2021, the women visited relatives in Sanaa and at some point, their freedom of movement was restricted and their passports were confiscated, the source said.
The Houthis also forced them to marry “under duress,” the source said.
The United States requested the joint rescue operation, the source said.
Saudi Arabia’s defence ministry said the operation was a sign of the strength of bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh.
In 2014, the Houthi movement ousted Yemen’s internationally recognized government and seized Sanaa, and now controls most of Yemen.
In 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened on behalf of the government. Recently, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, prompted retaliatory strikes by the coalition.
According to the United Nations, the war has created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than 20 million people in need of some form of assistance or protection.