Sana’a: Yemen released 460 northern Shi’ite rebel prisoners on Thursday following Qatari mediation, the rebels and security officials said.
Of those, 270 were set free in Sana’a and the rest in the northern city of Saada, the centre of the rebellion by Zaidis, also known as Huthis, a security official said.
Earlier in the day, a source close to the rebels said the authorities had begun releasing prisoners and that the move would affect about 1,000 detainees.
A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the release and added that "President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered for 400 prisoners to be released in the first stage”.
The rebels said in a statement that they had returned 10 military vehicles to authorities. They said they had so far received 428 freed prisoners.
The rebels have been engaged in sporadic fighting with government forces since 2004.
The prisoner release comes just days after a Qatari delegation arrived in Yemen in a bid to consolidate a fragile peace deal reached in February between the Sana`a government and the rebels.
The truce has largely held, although a car bomb stuck a religious procession in a Shi`ite rebel bastion in the northern province of Al-Jawf province on November 24, killing 15 people.