The joint Saudi-US special operations force rescued the teenagers kidnapped by the militia while visiting family in the capital Sanaa.
Saudi Arabia says it rescued two young American men from Yemen in a joint special operations mission with the United States.
The women, both Yemeni-American teenagers, were being held by Houthi rebels in Yemen’s capital Sanaa after being captured while visiting their grandmother, the Saudi Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
The women were taken by Saudi agents from Sanaa to Aden and then flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. They have now been repatriated to the United States, the Saudis said.
The Saudis did not say when the rescue mission took place, but a person familiar with the operation said it happened in January and was made public now because the women are now back in the US.
“During a family visit to Sanaa, the two US citizens were mistreated by the Houthi militia,” Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Malki said. “The Houthis also placed restrictions on their freedom and movement, and their passports were confiscated.
“Following a request from the US and through a special security operation, the two US citizens were released and then transported from Sanaa to Aden,” it added. “Subsequently, the Royal Saudi Air Force flew them from Aden to Riyadh.”
‘Grateful for the help’
The statement said the joint operation was indicative of cooperation between Washington and Riyadh, something that many have recently questioned over differences on issues ranging from global oil supplies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the nuclear deal with Iran.
A State Department spokesman confirmed the rescue operation, saying in a statement: “We assisted with the safe return of two US citizens from an area of Yemen currently under Houthi control.”
The spokesman said the department was grateful for the assistance of “our Saudi and Yemeni partners… in facilitating their safe departure. Due to privacy considerations, we have nothing else.”
The Houthis forced the women to marry “under duress”, a source with knowledge of the matter told the Reuters news agency.
The Houthi movement, claiming it was fighting a corrupt system, toppled Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2014 and took over Sanaa. The militia now controls much of the deeply impoverished country.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened on the side of the government in 2015. The conflict recently escalated with missile and drone attacks by the Houthis on the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, causing provoked retaliatory strikes by the coalition.
The war has created what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than 20 million people in need of some form of assistance or protection.