Before April 12, 2021, no one knew of the Houthis’ kidnapping of an American citizen in Yemen some two-and-a-half years ago.
The American administration has announced a reward of 5 million dollars to anyone who can help in locating Abdul-Bari Al-Katef, a Yemeni native.
The entire affair has raised several questions over why Washington, his relatives and international and Yemeni rights groups have remained silent over the issue for so long.
The US Department of Justice’s Rewards for Justice program said Al-Katef was kidnapped from his home in Sanaa. However, a social media post from six months ago reported his family as saying that he was actually abducted from a location that is close to one of the residents of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in northern Sanaa.
The circumstances point to one possible culprit, the Iran-backed Houthi militias, Yemeni politicians told Asharq Al-Awsat.
An online search of Al-Katef yields at least three results from social media accounts that support the late Saleh. They reported the abduction, which took place about a month after bloody clashes that took place between Saleh’s forces and the Houthis in Sanaa.
This raises several questions over who Al-Katef is and for whom he was working for, knowing that he headed an organization that was active in the US and was working against the Yemeni government and Arab coalition.
With the end of the clashes and the Houthis coming out on top, no one spoke of the abduction until October 18, 2020 when one of his relatives posted an appeal on social media asking about his whereabouts.
The post said that Al-Katef was an immigrant in the US and had visited Yemen where he was kidnapped. No one had heard from him since.
The post added that the abduction took place in the al-Hasba district in Sanaa where one of Saleh’s houses is located.
Al-Katef’s name appeared in several local Yemeni news outlets between 2015 and 2016 for his opposition to the legitimate government and Arab coalition.
The Houthi-run Thwara newspaper said he had taken part in several marches and rallies against the coalition that were held in various American cities. He had also organized marches in Washington to protest against American support to the coalition.
Al-Katef was identified as head of the Sam bin Nouh organization that helped in mediating prisoner swaps between the Houthis and southerners.
Two sources close to the General People’s Congress in Yemen told Asharq Al-Awsat that they had never heard of Al-Katef’s abduction, pledging to seek information about him.
Three political sources speculated that he was detained by the Houthis for either concealing his American identity or that he was victim of a double-cross accusing him of operating for the American government.