'Captured soldiers' released, says report

Two hundred Yemeni soldiers who were reportedly captured by Houthi rebels in the north of the country on Monday are now said to have been freed. AFP quotes a mediator and "tribal sources close to the rebels" as confirming the release.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni defence ministry issued a statementdenying that 200 soldiers of the Republican Guard had been captured. "The Republican Guard forces have no deployment in those alleged positions," it said. 

Although the statement could be read as implying that no soldiers had been captured, it could also be interpreted as meaning that the soldiers, if indeed they had been captured, were not from the Republican Guard.

Initial reports had said that the soldiers were taken prisoner when the rebels took control of an army post in al-Zaala (Amran province).

As usual with disputed reports from Yemen, it's hard to know where the truth lies, though clearly it would be very embarrassing for the authorities to admit that so many of their troops had been captured. The rebels, if they did actually capture the army post, may have been equally embarrassed to have so many soldiers in their custody needing to be fed and guarded, and may have wanted to release them as soon as possible.

Separately, it is reported that Abd al-Raqib al-Qershi (or Qurashi), a Nasserist opposition figure who fled Yemen in 1978 after being accused of involvement in an assassination attempt against President Salih, has died in of gunshot wounds.

He had returned to Yemen from Syria in May at Salih's invitationand a month later was shot in the head after leaving a mosque in Sana'a. After emergency treatment in Yemen he was flown back to Syria, where he died in hospital yesterday.

AP says three suspects have been named but none has been arrested.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 29 July 2010.