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Yemen: Two women freed in US-Saudi special op

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Two Yemeni-American women held in Yemen have been freed in a mission by US and Saudi special forces, a Saudi official has said.

The women had been captive since going to visit relatives in the capital, Sanaa, defence ministry spokesman Brig Gen Turki al-Malki said.

The joint operation was carried out at the request of the US, Gen Malki said.

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Sanaa has been held by Houthi rebels since 2014. Saudi Arabia launched an offensive against them in 2015.

The rebels have also taken control of large parts of the west of the country, forcing the Western-backed government to relocate to the southern port city of Aden. The conflict between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has created a devastating humanitarian crisis and left tens of thousands of civilians dead or wounded.

Reuters news agency cited an unnamed source as saying the women had been forced to marry “under duress” – and that the operation which freed the women happened in January.

It is unclear how long the pair, which the source said were aged 19 and 20, had been held for.

“The two US citizens were mistreated and restrictions were placed on their freedom and movement, and their passports were confiscated,” Gen Malki said.

Gen Malki said they were evacuated to Aden then flown to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, from where they are said to have returned to the US.

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