Iran-backed militants stormed the U.S. embassy facility in Sana’a, Yemen, earlier this week, leaving State Department officials scrambling to secure the release of several people taken hostage by the group on Thursday.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that the group consisted of Houthi rebels who had stormed the U.S. facility a day earlier in search of “large quantities of equipment and materials,” noted reports that were initially translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
The raid on the U.S. embassy came around five days after Houthi rebels kidnapped some Yemeni nationals who were employed at the facility.
“The alleged raid comes after the Houthis kidnapped three Yemeni nationals affiliated with the U.S. Embassy from one of the employee’s private residences in Sana’a on November 5,” noted MEMRI.
In addition, at least 22 more Yemenis have also been kidnapped in recent weeks by Houthi militants, “most of whom worked on the security staff guarding the embassy grounds,” MEMRI added.
In a statement to the Free Beacon, the State Department confirmed that Yemenis who work at the facility are being detained for unexplained reasons. In addition, the department said that the Iran-backed militants also stole U.S. property from the facility after breaching it. The compound housed U.S. embassy staff before a suspension of operations in the Yemeni capital in 2015.
“The United States has been unceasing in its diplomatic efforts to secure their release,” the State Department spokesman told the outlet. “The majority of the detained have been released, but the Houthis continue to detain additional Yemeni employees of the embassy.”
The spokesman added that those still being held are being “detained without explanation and we call for their immediate release.”
A former embassy staffer, an economic officer, and a U.S. Agency for International Development worker are among those still under Houthi custody, MEMRI stated.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, remains “concerned about the breach of the compound” and has called “on the Houthis to immediately vacate it and return all seized property,” according to the spokesman.
The White House “will continue its diplomatic efforts to secure the release of our staff and the vacating of our compound, including through our international partners,” the State Department spokesman added.
The situation in Yemen is likely to worsen relations between the U.S. and Iran, the latter of whom has funded and supplied the Houthi rebels for years. The Trump administration had designated the Houthis as a terrorist group but it was removed by the Biden administration upon taking office, “a move that was seen as a goodwill gesture to coax Iran into diplomatic negotiations aimed at securing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord,” the Free Beacon reported.
According to a report earlier this year, though 80 percent of Iranians live in poverty, the regime spends lavishly on weapons programs and funding for militant groups throughout the region in a bid to destabilize opposition governments and grow its own influence.
In addition to ballistic missile research and development, Iran also spends a great deal of revenue on its suspected nuclear weapons program.