Trump Admin Brings Home Two American Hostages Held By Iran-Backed Militia

Houthis (Mohammed Huwais/AFP via Getty Images)
October 15, 2020

The Trump administration brought home two American hostages held in Yemen by an Iran-backed militia, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Washington negotiated a hostage exchange for humanitarian worker Sandra "Sam" Loli and businessman Mikael Gidada, whom the Houthi militia group had held in Yemen for over a year. The negotiations were rapid because of Loli's deteriorating health condition. The United States also secured the remains of Bilal Fateen, a third American the Houthis had taken hostage.

"Today is a day we have long hoped for," said Richard Boni, Loli's husband. "Our family is filled with immense relief and gratitude that Sam—a beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend—has been released and reunited with her family."

In exchange for the American citizens, the Trump administration offered over 200 Houthi loyalists. The Iran-backed insurgents are currently locked in a bitter civil war with Yemeni security forces, which have the support of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis were instrumental in securing this latest hostage deal.

Hostage retrievals continue to be a major effort for the Trump administration, which has so far brought home over 50 hostages from 22 countries. In August, the president invited six of these former hostages to the Republican National Convention stage.

"We're very proud of the job we did," Trump told the crowd.

The Yemeni civil war has been a contentious topic in Washington, however. Even though the Houthis attempted to launch a missile at an American naval vessel in 2016, a left-leaning political coalition still opposes American support for the war. In 2019, President Trump vetoed a bill to end American support for the Saudi-Yemeni cause.

"The Houthi rebels have plunged Yemen into a brutal civil war at the bidding of Iran's ayatollahs," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said in 2019. "The United States ought to formally condemn the Houthis for their terrorist attacks on American sailors and innocent civilians. By their actions, the Houthis condemn themselves as terrorists and outlaws from the civilized world."

Published under: Houthis , Iran , Yemen