Detained American Journalist Freed in Yemen
American journalist Casey Coombs, held by Houthi rebels in Yemen since last month, was released Monday.
The same day harrowing footage of a French hostage in Yemen begging for her release was posted to YouTube, a surprising bit of good news emerged out of the violence-ridden country: After weeks in captivity, American journalist Casey Coombs has been freed.
The U.S. State Department confirmed his release Monday, saying he arrived safely in Muscat, Oman in stable condition. Greta C. Holtz, the U.S. Ambassador to Oman, and a consular official met him at the airport there.
“We are grateful to the Government of Oman and Sultan Qaboos for assisting with the safe passage of a U.S. citizen to Oman,” a State Department official told Foreign Policy.
Coombs, whose Twitter profile describes him as a freelance journalist based in Sanaa, published a personal essay in the Intercept in early May, detailing his recent attempts to flee Yemen, the site of an ongoing Saudi Arabian air campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi fighters who control much of the country.
In the essay, Coombs said he had spent weeks desperately searching for a path out of the country where he has been based since 2012, but the U.S. government was unhelpful and commercial flights were canceled. Once Sanaa’s airport was bombed, Coombs said he considered seeking a route by way of boat to Djibouti, but that it would have been dangerous and expensive to do so.
Despite his failed attempts to leave the country, Coombs remained good-hearted about his relationship with Yemen, and said that he still experienced moments of genuine human kindness, including — surprisingly — from those who would eventually become his captors.
“Even amid the fighting, Yemeni hospitality is still in place,” he wrote. “My neighbors check in on me, and the guards at the Houthi compound see me every day and wave.”
In a tweet posted on May 14, said it was a “quiet day as far as fighting in Sanaa.”
With Coombs on his way back home, the families of the other Americans missing in Yemen may have newfound optimism that their loved ones will make it back, as well. On Sunday, the State Department confirmed that “several” Americans were being held in Yemen, though it didn’t provide other details.
Photo credit: MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images