Warring parties in Yemen swap hundreds of prisoners
December 18 2015 12:17 AM

A Yemeni pro-government fighter is welcomed back by relatives and friends yesterday in the southern Lahj governorate upon his release as part of a prisoner exchange deal.

AFP
Sanaa


Yemeni pro-government forces and rebels completed an exchange of hundreds of prisoners yesterday, an official said, as violence tested a shaky ceasefire on the third day of UN-sponsored peace talks.
Heavy clashes in Marib province, east of rebel-held Sanaa, left 12 pro-government fighters dead and 30 wounded, along with “many victims among the rebels”, according to military sources.
Loyalist forces stormed a military base that was controlled by insurgents, accusing them of firing at pro-government troops, the sources said.
The rebels meanwhile accused the loyalists of attacking their positions in Marib.
The coalition also bombed rebel positions near the border with Saudi Arabia, a local official said.
In Baida in central Yemen, a car bomb targeted a police station, a military source said, but it was unclear if there were casualties.
The prisoner swap, which took place in the southern province of Lahj, involved 370 Huthi rebels and 285 loyalist fighters.
“We have successfully completed the process of exchanging the prisoners,” said Mokhtar al-Rabbash, a member of the prisoners’ affairs committee, which is close to the government.
The swap was slowed down by concerns over security along the route linking the two exchange points, Rabbash said.
Little information has emerged from the open-ended talks in Switzerland aimed at ending Yemen’s devastating conflict.
“The talks are still ongoing and progressing,” UN media adviser Charbel Raji said without elaborating.
Delegates said they had been asked not to talk to the media.
A fragile ceasefire declared by forces loyal to embattled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi began on Tuesday. It remained shaky, with reports of sporadic violations on the ground.
The Saudi-led coalition supporting Hadi accused Shia Huthi rebels of flouting the ceasefire immediately, and acknowledged that it had “responded to these violations”.
The Huthis and allied renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh were also accused by residents of bombing areas controlled by pro-Hadi forces in the flashpoint city of Taez.
Roughly 6,000 people have been killed in Yemen - about half of them civilians - and around 28,000 wounded since March, according to the UN.

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