Two US citizens released by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen

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Updated 15 October 2020

Two US citizens released by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen

WASHINGTON: Two Americans and the remains of a third held captive by Iranian-backed militants in Yemen were released on Wednesday in exchange for the return of about 250 of the Houthi rebels from Oman, according to the White House and sources in the region.
Oman’s state news said the American captives were flown out of Yemen on an Omani plane. It said 250 “Yemeni brothers” who received treatment in Oman have been returned to Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, on two flights as part of the exchange.

“The United States welcomes the release today of US citizens Sandra Loli and Mikael Gidada from Houthi custody in Yemen,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement. “We send our condolences to the family of Bilal Fateen, whose remains will be repatriated as well.”
O’Brien did not mention the exchange, but thanked the leaders of Oman and Saudi Arabia for their help in securing the release of the Americans.
Kieran Ramsey, director of the administration’s hostage recovery cell, said Loli and Gidada would soon be on their way back to the United States.
“Tragically, one of these Americans died during his unlawful captivity,” Ramsey said.
Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to Trump who worked on the deal, told The Wall Street Journal that Loli had been held by the Houthis for about three years and Gidada was held captive for about a year.


Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2020

Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

  • Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020

DUBAI: The number of reported coronavirus cases has gone over 3 million in the Middle East, an Associated Press count showed on Friday, with the true number likely even higher.
Across the Mideast, there have been over 75,000 deaths attributed to the virus by health authorities, the AP count relying on reported figures by individual countries shows.
There have been 2.5 million recoveries from the virus causing the COVID-19 illness.
In the Mideast, the hardest-hit nation remains Iran, which served as the initial epicenter of the virus in the region. In Iran alone, authorities say there have been over 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with some 477,000 recoveries and 34,000 deaths. Yet even those numbers are believed to be low, Iranian officials say.

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Deaths have been reported in the Middle East region due to the coronavirus, according to health authorities.

In some war-torn nations, it remains difficult to know the scope of the pandemic as well. In Yemen for instance, it’s believed that the vast majority of the country’s cases have gone undiagnosed and untreated, and health workers have said only those who are near death are usually brought to hospitals.