Refugee council staff detained by Houthis for distributing aid released in Yemen
Photo: Yemeni volunteers of a local charity distribute food rations to families affected by the country's ongoing conflict
Seven people detained in a Houthi-held part of Yemen for using recycled boxes originating in Saudi Arabia to distribute aid have been released, the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Thursday.
"We are greatly relieved by the release of our staff members and the driver," said Mutasim Hamdan, the organization’s Yemen country director.
"They are in good condition, and we are pleased that they are now reunited with their families," Hamdan said in a statement.
Houthis in the Red Sea coastal district of Hudaydah detained six staff and a contracted driver - all Yemeni citizens - earlier this week.
Local sources told AFP the employees were accused of having accepted and distributed aid from the Arab coalition, which has been supporting the legitimate government headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent aid group based in Oslo, said it did not receive funding from Saudi Arabia for its relief operations in Yemen.
It had, however, been using recycled boxes to distribute hygiene kits in Yemen.
The group said when staff had opened the boxes to distribute the aid, the inside read "The campaign of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for emergency response," a reference to the Saudi king.
The boxes were dated January 2015 and had originally been used for food, according to the NRC.