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Leaders of UN and aid groups urge immediate release of 17 staffers being held by Yemen's rebels

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Leaders of UN and aid groups urge immediate release of 17 staffers being held by Yemen's rebels
News

News

Leaders of UN and aid groups urge immediate release of 17 staffers being held by Yemen's rebels

2024-06-14 08:34 Last Updated At:08:40

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The heads of six U.N. agencies and three international humanitarian organizations issued a joint appeal Thursday to Yemen’s Houthi rebels for the immediate release of 17 members of their staff who were recently detained along with many others also being held by the Iranian-backed group.

Their appeal was echoed by a statement from several dozen nations and the European Union ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Yemen where U.N. special envoy Hans Grundberg said the Houthis were holding all those detained in the crackdown incommunicado.

The Houthis said Monday they had arrested members of an “American-Israeli spy network,” days after detaining the staffers from the U.N. and aid organizations.

Maj. Gen. Abdulhakim al-Khayewani, head of the Houthis’ intelligence agency, announced the arrests, saying the spy network had first operated out of the U.S. Embassy in the capital Sanaa. After it was closed in 2015 following the Houthi takeover of Sanaa and northern Yemen, he said, they continued “their subversive agenda under the cover of international and U.N. organizations.”

He did not say how many people were arrested. Houthi authorities issued what they purported to be videotaped confessions by 10 Yemenis, several of whom said they were recruited by the U.S. Embassy. They did not include any of the U.N. employees who were arrested. The Houthis’ claims could not be independently verified.

The statement from the heads of the U.N. and aid organizations whose staffers are being held called their detentions “unprecedented — not only in Yemen but globally.”

They asked the Houthis to confirm the exact whereabouts of those detained and for immediate access, citing international humanitarian law which requires all parties to armed conflict to respect and protect humanitarian personnel.

“The targeting of humanitarian, human rights, and development workers in Yemen must stop,” the joint statement said. “All those detained must be immediately released.”

The statement from U.N. member nations, read by British Ambassador Barbara Woodward outside the Security Council chamber, strongly condemned the detentions since June 7, demanded the release of all those being held, and expressed grave concern at the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The countries expressed deep concern at the risk of delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen, and called for unimpeded access for all humanitarian workers.

The Houthis have been engaged in a civil war with Yemen’s internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, since 2014, when they took control of Sanaa and most of the north.

Grundberg, the U.N. envoy who has been trying to get both sides back to the negotiating table to end the conflict, appealed not only for the release of the 13 recently detained U.N. personnel — including one from his staff — but for four other U.N. staffers being held incommunicado – two since 2021 and two since 2023.

“The United Nations is present to serve Yemenis,” he told the Security Council. “Such arbitrary detentions are not the expected signal of an actor who is seeking a mediated solution to the conflict.”

The detentions came as the Houthis have been targeting shipping throughout the Red Sea corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, their administration has faced increased financial pressure, and the group has cracked down on dissent at home, including the recent sentencing of 45 people to death.

Grundberg expressed concern at the 45 death sentences, reiterating the United Nations’ opposition to the death penalty.

It’s unclear what exactly sparked the latest detentions. Former employees of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, which shuttered in 2015, also have been detained and held by the Houthis.

File - Houthi rebel fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the U.S. strikes on Yemen outside Sanaa on Jan. 22, 2024. The heads of six U.N. agencies and three international humanitarian organizations issued a joint appeal Thursday, June 13, 2024, to Yemen’s Houthi rebels for the immediate release of 17 members of their staff who were recently detained along with many others also being held by the Iranian-backed group. (AP Photo, File)

File - Houthi rebel fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the U.S. strikes on Yemen outside Sanaa on Jan. 22, 2024. The heads of six U.N. agencies and three international humanitarian organizations issued a joint appeal Thursday, June 13, 2024, to Yemen’s Houthi rebels for the immediate release of 17 members of their staff who were recently detained along with many others also being held by the Iranian-backed group. (AP Photo, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump said he plans to announce his vice presidential pick on Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention.

It remains unclear whether the assassination attempt Saturday at his Pennsylvania rally has changed the former president's thinking about his potential second-in-command. But he told Fox News Channel host Bret Baier in a call that he planned to make his pick Monday.

The roll call vote to nominate that person is expected Monday, according to a person with direct knowledge of the schedule who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The person cautioned that Trump could always change his mind.

After Saturday's shooting, Trump's choice carries considerably more gravity. If a bullet had struck just a little bit to the right, Trump likely would have been killed or seriously injured.

The close call puts in stark relief the significance of a position that is a heartbeat away from the presidency. Trump has repeatedly claimed that choosing someone who was qualified to take over as commander in chief was his top consideration for the role.

“You need somebody that can be good just in case, that horrible just in case,” he said in an interview with “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” in May.

In an interview with Fox News’ Harris Faulkner taped hours before the Butler, Pennsylvania, rally, Trump was asked about how close he was to his VP pick and whether his decision-making would change if President Joe Biden steps aside.

“It’s a very important position especially if something bad should happen,” Trump said. “That’s the most important, if something bad should happen.”

Those on Trump's shortlist have differing levels of governing experience. Ohio Sen. JD Vance, for instance, has been in office less than two years, while North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum helms a state with a population (780,000 people) smaller than Columbus, Ohio (908,000). Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been in politics for decades and is in his third term in the Senate.

Before the shooting, Trump had made clear that he wanted to dramatically reveal his pick at the convention, which he said would make it more “interesting” and “exciting.”

“It’s like a highly sophisticated version of ‘The Apprentice,’” he quipped in a radio interview last week, referring to the show he once hosted that featured him firing contestants on camera.

Trump and convention organizers have said the RNC's schedule will go on as planned despite the shooting, with Trump writing on his social media site that he could not “allow a ‘shooter,’ or potential assassin, to force change to scheduling, or anything else.”

“In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United, and show our True Character as Americans, remaining Strong and Determined, and not allowing Evil to Win,” he wrote.

He held meetings in the days before the shooting with the top contenders. All have submitted material, including bios and photographs, to convention organizers that can be used to prepare content if they're picked, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secretive process.

The private meetings with Vance, Rubio and Burgum were first reported by ABC News.

Nothing was offered during the meetings, one of the people said.

Trump waiting until the convention to choose a running mate is later than usual for recent cycles but is hardly unprecedented.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan negotiated with former President Gerald Ford for hours during the Republican convention in Detroit but settled on his former primary rival George H.W. Bush when those discussions collapsed. Reagan cut it so close that his decision came less than 24 hours before he formally accepted the GOP nomination.

Bush himself waited until the 1988 Republican convention in New Orleans before shocking many attendees — as well as some of the then-vice president’s own top advisers — by picking little-known Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle to be his No. 2, rather than a more established running mate.

Since then, though, the tradition has been to pick a running mate shortly before the candidate’s party’s convention opens.

In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain, looking for a way to reset his race against Democrat Barack Obama, picked little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin shortly before the Republican convention opened in Minnesota. He got a bump in the polls that didn't last.

Biden, a Democrat, tapped then-California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate six days before his party opened its convention, which was held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. And Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in the days before the 2016 Republican convention opened in Cleveland.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Will Weissert contributed to this report from Washington.

Follow the AP's coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Security vehicles are parked outside the home of Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who is on Donald Trump's vice presidential short list, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Former President Trump waves to supporters after arriving to the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former President Trump waves to supporters after arriving to the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

FILE - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks, June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Rubio is a top contender to be selected as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks, June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Rubio is a top contender to be selected as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum attend a caucus night rally, Feb. 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. Burgum, who has grown close with the former president since he dropped his own bid for the nomination before voting began, is the third top contender for Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum attend a caucus night rally, Feb. 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. Burgum, who has grown close with the former president since he dropped his own bid for the nomination before voting began, is the third top contender for Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Vance is a top contender to be selected as Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File)

FILE - Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Vance is a top contender to be selected as Trump's running mate. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla. Trump waiting until the actual convention to choose a running mate is later than usual for recent cycles, but hardly unprecedented. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla. Trump waiting until the actual convention to choose a running mate is later than usual for recent cycles, but hardly unprecedented. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

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