SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthi movement has freed the presidential chief of staff, whom it seized on Jan. 17 during a power struggle with then President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Houthi official Ali al-Quhoom and two government officials said on Tuesday.
The seizure of the aide, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, helped to plunge Yemen into political crisis, resulting in clashes between the Houthis and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s presidential guards that prompted the president and the government to resign.
Quhoom said bin Mubarak was freed without any restrictions or conditions as a goodwill gesture to ease tensions in Yemen and in honor of a delegation of tribal leaders from the Shabwa province in southeastern Yemen where the Hadi aide comes from.
“Bin Mubarak has just been handed over to Sheikh Awad al-Wazir,” he told Reuters by telephone, referring to a tribal leader.
The Houthis had also threatened unspecified further steps after Hadi laid out a new draft constitution that would devolve authority to regions, in an attempt to resolve regional, political and sectarian differences in Yemen.
The Houthis quickly rejected the draft, saying it paved the way for dividing the country and obstructing a power sharing agreement they signed when they captured Sanaa in September.
Hadi and the rest of his government resigned on Thursday in exasperation at the Houthi takeover of much of the country.
Political parties in Yemen, including the Houthis, are currently trying to agree on what to do after Hadi’s resignation, which has left a power vacuum in a country which borders the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis have proposed forming a presidential council of representatives of various political parties.
Other parties are trying to persuade Hadi to retract his resignation before they agree to any new arrangement.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi and Yara Bayoumy, Editing by William Maclean and Dominic Evans