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American held in Yemen freed, evacuated to Oman: official

Last month, Oman was also integral in securing the release of two other Americans being held in the Yemeni capital Sanaa
A handout picture released by the Oman News Agency on November 6, 2016, shows an unidentified man waving upon his arrival at Muscat airport (AFP)

An American citizen held in Yemen was released Sunday and evacuated from rebel-controlled Sanaa to Muscat along with Yemenis wounded in the country's conflict, the sultanate's foreign ministry said.

Identified by the US State Department, Wallead Yusuf Pitts Luqman was transported onboard an Omani military aircraft after his release was secured "following a request by the US government (to Oman) to continue helping in (releasing) its citizens held in Yemen," the ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency ONA.

It said he was set free following "coordination with concerned parties in Sanaa," in an apparent reference to Houthi rebels.

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his "deepest gratitude and appreciation" to the government of Oman "for their leadership and assistance in securing Mr Luqman's safe return."

"We also recognise this positive gesture by the Houthis," Kerry said. "We will be relentless in our efforts to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained overseas.

"We continue to call for the release of individuals unjustly held in Yemen."

Last month, Muscat secured the release of two other Americans who were held in Sanaa.

There have been dozens of kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen over the years, most of them by members of the country's heavily armed tribes seeking concessions from the authorities.

Since the Houthi rebels overran the capital in September 2014, they have detained several Westerners, most of whom have been released through Omani mediation.

In September, a US citizen who ran an English-language school in Sanaa was detained by men who said they were security officers working for the Houthis, witnesses said at the time.

A rebel leader later said the US national was detained for providing the Saudi-led coalition with target coordinates for its deadly campaign against the Iran-backed Houthis.

A member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Oman has good ties with countries outside the wealthy bloc including with the Yemeni rebels.

It is the only GCC country not to have joined the coalition air war against the Houthis and their allies in Yemen, although it maintains good relations with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Oman is also one of the few Arab countries to have a good relationship with Iran and has mediated between Tehran and Washington on prisoners in the past.

In September last year, Yemeni rebels freed six foreigners, two of them Americans.

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