Yemen has released hundreds of Houthi prisoners as part of a ceasefire in its conflict with this northern Shiite group. Of them 270 were set free in Sanaa and the rest in the northern city of Saada, the centre of the Houthi rebel movement.In return, officials said the rebels were expected to "surrender weaponry seized during the armed conflict" with the government.
In a statement on Thursday, the rebels said they had returned 10 military vehicles to authorities and had so far received 428 freed prisoners.
The prisoner release, which in fact was long overdue, comes just days after a Qatari delegation arrived in Yemen in an effort to consolidate a fragile peace deal reached in February 2010 between the Sanaa government and the rebels. Qatar had previously brokered a short-lived ceasefire between the two sides in 2007 and a peace deal in 2008, but clashes soon broke out again.
The Houthis are members of the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam and follow the teachings of Bader Al-Deen Al-Houthi and his son, Hussein, the first leader of uprising who was killed in 2004.
The group has fought six wars with the government since 2004. They accuse the government of social, political and economic discrimination. More than 250,000 people have been displaced by the wars.