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The New Arab

Yemen rivals in mass prisoner swap as fighting continues

Yemen is in deadlock amid continued tensions between warring parties [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2015

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While talks between pro-government and Houthi officials take place in Switzerland, the two sides have swapped hundreds of prisoners as a shaky ceasefire is interrupted by sporadic clashes.

An exchange of hundreds of prisoners held by Yemeni pro-government groups and Houthi rebels has been completed amid ongoing fighting.

Around 370 Houthi and 285 pro-government fighters held captive by the rival forces were exchanged at Yafaa in Lahij province, central Yemen on Thursday.

It came after a day of confusion on Wednesday when officials highlighted concerns about security on the route the buses carrying prisoners to Yafaa would take.

The Red Cross in Sanaa - previously involved in previous prisoner swaps - said earlier on Wednesday they were not aware of the deal.

"We have successfully completed the process of exchanging the prisoners," said Mokhtar al-Rabbash, a member of the prisoners' affairs committee, which is close to President Abd Rabbo Mansour's government.

Meanwhile, crucial UN peace talks taking place in Switzerland behind closed doors entered their third day.

Little information has emerged about the talks between Houthi rebel officials and members of Hadi's government.

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Little information has emerged from the open-ended talks in Switzerland aimed at ending Yemen's devastating conflict.

In coincided with a shaky ceasefire which began on Tuesday with sporadic clashes breaking out leading to over 20 deaths.

The Saudi-led coalition - supporting Hadi forces - accused the Houthis of breaking the ceasefire almost immediately after the truce was announced. Sources said they had "responded" to rebel attacks in kind.

Heavy fighting took place overnight east of the rebel-held Yemeni capital in Marib province .

Troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh - who are allied with the Houthis - were also accused of bombing pro-government positions in the besieged city of Taiz.

More than 5,800 people have been killed in the country - about half of them civilians - and more than 27,000 wounded since March, according to the UN.

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