Singaporean, American missing in Yemen reach Oman, host of 'secret' US talks

An unidentified woman speaks to an American, believed to have been held by Iran-backed Houthis, as he lays on a stretcher upon his arrival in Oman. An unidentified Singaporean was also released, and may have been among several people held by Iran-bac
An unidentified woman speaks to an American, believed to have been held by Iran-backed Houthis, as he lays on a stretcher upon his arrival in Oman. An unidentified Singaporean was also released, and may have been among several people held by Iran-backed rebels in war-ravaged Yemen. -- PHOTO: AFP 

MUSCAT (AFP) - An American and a Singaporean who had been missing in war-ravaged Yemen were found and taken to neighbouring Oman on Monday, the sultanate's official ONA news agency reported, as the Americans held talked with the Iran-backed rebels.

The announcement came as a US official said that an American citizen who had been held in the war-torn country had been freed and sent to Oman where he was met by the US ambassador, and where talks were being held between the Americans and the Iran-backed Houthis.

News of the release of the American identified as journalist Casey Coombs came as Omani state media reported that a Singaporean had also arrived in the sultanate on his way home.

"I can... confirm that US citizen Casey Coombs has departed Yemen and has arrived safely in Muscat, Oman," said US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

"He is in stable condition. The US ambassador and a consular official met him at the airport upon his arrival and are providing all possible consular assistance."

Pictures released by Oman's official ONA news agency showed Coombs being stretchered into an ambulance with a brace around his head.

"We are grateful to the government of Oman and personally to Sultan Qaboos for assisting with the safe passage of a US citizen to Oman," said Harf.

The Singaporean has so far not been identified and there was no confirmation of where the pair had been held or by whom, but the American journalist's Twitter account has been inactive since May 15.

ONA news agency said the pair had been "found" with help from Muscat which had "coordinated with concerned parties in Yemen to search for the American citizen and the Singaporean".

Oman's Sultan Qaboos had issued "orders to help the American and Singaporean governments regarding their two citizens who had gone missing in Yemen", ONA reported.

The sultanate had "coordinated with concerned parties in Yemen to search for the American citizen and the Singaporean", said ONA.

"They were found and have been taken from Sanaa to the sultanate this evening in preparation for their return to their home countries," it added without giving further details.

The news came after it was revealed that several Americans were imprisoned in Yemen. The Washington Post said the Americans were believed to be held by the Houthis in a prison near the rebel-held capital Sanaa, but there has been no word whether the Singaporean had also been held there.

US officials said efforts to secure the Americans' release had been mainly through "intermediaries including humanitarian groups that continue to have a presence in Sanaa", it reported at the weekend.

One of the prisoners had been approved to be released in recent days, but the rebels went back on their decision. He had initially been detained for overstaying his visa, but then the rebels accused him of travelling to "sensitive" areas in Yemen.

Yemen's exiled government and diplomats in Muscat have said that Oman was hosting the talks between a US delegation and the Shiite rebels. Muscat has often played the role of mediator between Iran and the United States and had in the past secured the release of several detainees.

Oman is also the only member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council not to have joined a Saudi-led air war targeting the Houthis and their allies in Yemen.