Shia militia releases Yemen PM, ministers from house arrest

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Sanaa, March 16: The Shia Houthi group, which controls the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on Monday released Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and cabinet members after almost two months of house arrest, a government spokesman said.

"The release came after efforts exerted by UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, and weeks-long national campaigns by political parties and non-governmental organisations," spokesman Rajeh Badi told Xinhua news agency.

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Meanwhile, Bahah said in a statement that he now has "absolute freedom to travel inside and outside the country as guaranteed by human rights laws and constitution".

Bahah said he would visit his family in the southeastern province of Hadramout.

It is "a goodwill gesture which aims to push ahead the ongoing political talks currently under UN mediation", he said.

Bahah and his cabinet members submitted resignations to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on January 22 after the Houthi militia stormed the presidential palace in Sanaa, and put them under house arrest.

Last week, Yemeni Defence Minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi fled Houthi-imposed house arrest and headed to his hometown in the southern Lahj province. Subaihi met with Hadi last week in the southern port city of Aden, where Hadi resumed his presidential duties after a three-week house arrest by the Houthi group in Sanaa.

On February 6, the Houthi group dissolved parliament and formed a presidential council, a unilateral move rejected by Yemen's political parties and denounced by the Gulf Arab states.

Aden, the country's second major city, was capital of former South Yemen before unification with the north in 1990, when Sanaa became the unified country's capital.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have moved their embassies to Aden after more than a dozen countries closed their missions in Sanaa in February in protest against the Houthi takeover.

Security has deteriorated in Yemen since January when the Shia Houthi group seized the presidential palace in Sanaa after deadly clashes with presidential guards, leading to the resignations of president Hadi and prime minister Bahah.

The Shia Houthi group, also known as Ansarullah, is based in the far northern province of Saada. It has been expanding its influence southward after signing a UN-sponsored peace and power-sharing deal on September 21, 2014, following week-long deadly clashes.

Complaining of marginalisation for years, it had fought the government between 2004 and 2010.

IANS

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