LONDON: The US on Thursday called for the Houthi militia in Yemen to immediately release American embassy staff recently detained in Sanaa.
At least 25 local employees for the embassy and the US Agency for International Development were detained in recent weeks by the Iran-backed group, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.
The embassy was shuttered in 2015 shortly after the Houthis seized the capital and much of northern Yemen, sparking the conflict.
The Houthis recently raided the embassy compound and removed some of the property.
A State Department spokesperson said most of the staff had been released but some remained detained.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
The Houthis must “immediately vacate” the embassy and “return all seized property,” they added. “The US government will continue its diplomatic efforts to secure the release of our staff and the vacating of our compound, including through our international partners.”
On Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said he did not have details on why the staff had been detained at this time.
“We are extremely concerned by reports of detentions of some of our local Yemeni employees in Sanaa, and we call for their immediate release,” he said during a press briefing.
The detentions emerged as Cathy Westley, the top American diplomat at the Yemen embassy, which is now based in Saudi Arabia, visited government held Aden on Monday.
She traveled with the US special envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, who was on his first trip to the country.
They met Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed and several other officials for talks on the conflict.
Lenderking has been tasked with finding a resolution to the war between the Iran-backed Houthis and government troops supported by an Arab coalition.