Two US women held captive by Yemen's Houthi rebels rescued

The successful US-Saudi operation took place in January

Pro-Houthis Yemenis hold up weapons during an anti-US and Saudi Arabia rally in Sana'a, Yemenon 7 March 2022. EPA

Saudi Arabia and the US mounted a joint operation in January to rescue two young American women held captive by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

The Yemen-born women, aged 19 and 20, were flown from the Yemeni capital to the southern city of Aden and then to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where they underwent health checks and other care, US and Saudi officials said on Friday.

The identities of the women or other information about them were not revealed, Reuters reported on Thursday.

“In continuation of the long-standing robust military co-operation and joint security co-ordination between the Kingdom and the United States, two young American women were freed from captivity, evacuated, and transported from the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa to the interim capital, Aden, and later on to Riyadh,” said Brig Gen Turki Al Malki, the official spokesman of the Saudi Ministry of Defence.

A State Department representative confirmed the rescue operation, saying: “We assisted with the safe return of two US citizens from an area of Yemen currently under Houthi control.”

The women went to Sanaa in March 2021 to visit relatives and at some point had their freedom of movement restricted and their passports confiscated.

The Houthis also forced them to marry “under duress”, a source said.

The State Department said it was grateful for the assistance of “our Saudi and Yemeni partners … in facilitating their safe departure. Due to privacy considerations, we have nothing further.”

The joint rescue operation was mounted at the request of the US, the source said.

Meanwhile, a refinery in Riyadh was attacked by a drone on Thursday morning, causing a small fire, Saudi state news agency SPA reported early on Friday.

Petroleum supplies were not affected by the attack that took place at 4.40am local time.

Updated: March 11, 2022, 6:30 AM