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article imageYemen rebels free sons of ex-president Saleh

By AFP     Oct 3, 2018 in World

Yemen's Huthi rebels said Wednesday they had released two sons of slain ex-president Ali Abdallah Saleh, 10 months after they were captured following the killing of their father.

Salah and Medyen Saleh were pardoned by Mehdi Mushat, head of the rebels' supreme political council, and subsequently released, the rebel-run Saba news agency said.

It did not give further details.

Multiple political sources close to the late president said neighbouring Oman, which has remained neutral in the Yemen war, played a major role in brokering their release, which came on condition the two stepped down from Yemeni politics.

Ali Abdullah Saleh's party, the General People's Congress, has lost its power in the war between the Iran-backed Huthis and Saudi-led pro-government alliance, but continues to be a useful ally for Yemeni politicians seeking broader appeal.

A Saudi-led military coalition backing Yemen's government said Wednesday that Saleh's released sons had been flown out of Sanaa on a chartered UN flight to Jordan. That was confirmed by a source at Sanaa international airport.

The coalition accused the rebels of stalling for five days "by refusing to allow the UN plane to land at Sanaa international airport", in a statement published by Saudi Arabia's state news agency.

Sanaa international airport, controlled by the rebels, has been shut down for years. The Saudi-led coalition controls Yemen's airspace.

A Jordanian official confirmed Saleh's two sons had arrived at Amman's Queen Alia International Airport from Sanaa, where their plane was due to stay for one hour.

"It will go towards a third country," the official said in a statement, without detailing the plane's final destination. "The two sons will not enter Amman."

The Huthis had been allied with Saleh for three years when their alliance collapsed into mutual accusations of treason, leading to armed clashes in the capital and ultimately the ex-president's death at the hands of the rebels in December 2017.

Saleh had made overtures to Saudi Arabia in the weeks leading to his death.

The rebels are believed to still be holding relatives of Ali Abdallah Saleh, including one of his nephews.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance intervened in the Yemen war in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

The actual death toll is likely much higher, according to rights groups.

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