The State Department has revealed that the US Embassy building in Yemen's capital of Sanaa, Yemen was raided this week by Yemeni Houthi rebels, who are allies of Iran. The now breached compound that previously served as America's embassy, however, hasn't been active for years since the 2015 war started, when official State Dept. operations for Yemen moved to neighboring Saudi Arabia.
But crucially, the Houthis have reportedly captured an unspecified number of local Yemenis who had staffed the prior US embassy in Sanaa, AFP news agency reports. While by the end of this week most of the detainees have been reported released, a number of employees of the embassy continue to be held hostage.
The US State Dept. is calling for their immediate release, in a scenario which parallels the August US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left stranded many thousands of locals who previously worked under the US as the Pentagon hastily evacuated Kabul airport.
"We are concerned that Yemeni staff of the US Embassy in Sanaa continue to be detained without explanation and we call for their immediate release," a US official said in a Thursday statement. Washington is urging that the Houthis must "immediately vacate" the compound and return all seized property, the AFP writes.
An early in the week State Department briefing said the Biden administration is "extremely concerned" by the reports of the local staff members' detention. Spokesman Ned Price said at the time: "We’ve seen some progress and we’re continuing to work this critical issue. The majority of those who have been detained are no longer in custody."
The exact numbers of those still being held weren't divulged. Price continued: "We are committed to ensuring the safety of those who serve the US government overseas, and that is why we are so actively engaged on this matter, including through our international partners." Local Yemeni reports have cited up to two dozen could still be detained.
Additionally, the US is concerned over the "large quantities of equipment and materials" that were taken, according to a report in local Yemeni Al-Masdar News.
Houthi rebels in Yemen have breached the compound that housed the U.S. Embassy in the capital Sanaa and detained Yemeni employees of the embassy, the State Department says. From @Amy_23_Cheng and @siobhan_ogrady https://t.co/TFwoimweOR— Alan Sipress (@AlanSipress) November 12, 2021
The Biden administration initially campaigned on a key foreign policy position of wanting to end the war in Yemen. This after the Pentagon for years provided targeting assistance to Saudi-UAE coalition jets, with US officers staffing an operations room to assist the Saudis in executing the war which has taken over 230,000 lives - but which has remained generally underreported in the mainstream media.
Last week the Biden administration still approved a $650m sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh, as the Saudis say they urgently need to beef up their ability to target Houthi missile sites, given that over the past couple years there's been an increase in drone and missile attacks reaching deep into the kingdom coming from Yemeni territory to the south.