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Houthi coup facilitates release of Iranian diplomat Open in fullscreen

Adel al-Ahmadi & Farah al-Zaman Shawqi

Houthi coup facilitates release of Iranian diplomat

The diplomat was kidnapped outside his house in Yemen [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 March, 2015

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The release of an Iranian diplomat held in Sanaa shows the extent of Iranian influence over the Houthis who control the capital, according to Yemeni sources.
An Iranian diplomat kipnapped in Yemen in 2013 has been freed according to high-level Yemeni sources. Nour Ahmad Nikbakhat was being held in the National Security prison a branch of Yemeni intelligence services, sources reported.

"The diplomat may have been freed because the Houthis control Sanaa and the headquarters of the Intelligence Services," Yemeni sources argued.

     Nikbakhat was freed in a carefully-planned, sophisticated intelligence operation.
- Mahmoud Alavi, Iranian minister of intelligence and security.
This contradicts the official Iranian story that the diplomat was freed in a special operation.

Nikbakhat was freed in a carefully-planned, sophisticated intelligence operation, according to Mahmoud Alavi, Iranian minister of intelligence and security. "Iranian agencies have been in contact with all concerned since the diplomat was abduction over a year ago to end the crisis and protect national security," he added. The minister explained that his ministry's mission was to protect its diplomats from any potential danger.

"The freeing of the Iranian diplomat proves the Iranian security is intelligent and political competent," Hossein Amirabdolahian, official in charge of Arab and African affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry argued.

The diplomat was kidnapped outside his house in Sanaa on 21 July by Al-Qaeda-affiliated gunmen, according to Yemeni tribal sources.

"The freed Iranian diplomat had been held by armed elements since 2013," a Yemeni security source explained, without identifying the kidnapper or the location where he was held, or explaining why he was released.

Nikbakhat arrived at Mehrabad international airport in western Tehran today. The Iranian state-run TV covered his arrival live. The diplomat explained he had been kidnapped after leaving his house at 9:20am by a group of unidentified individuals, and that his detention had been tough.

Earlier Yemeni sources had reported that Nikbakhat's body had been found in the desert near Ma'rib Governorate. The Iranian Embassy in Saana had denied reports that he had died.

If the diplomat was released because of the Houthis control over the capital it reveals the extent of Iranian military influence in Yemen.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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