'I'm Afraid,' Says American Jailed in Yemen

Sharif Mobley, once suspected of al-Qaeda ties, makes rare call home in plea
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2015 9:38 AM CDT
'I'm Afraid,' Says American Jailed in Yemen
Nzinga Islam, the wife of US suspect Sharif Mobley and her daughter Juwayriya, right, and son Yehya pauses while attending a media conference in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 11, 2010.   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

The confusing story of Sharif Mobley just took a desperate-sounding turn. The 31-year-old father of three, held prisoner in Yemen since 2010, placed a "rare call" to his lawyers this week from what he said was a Sanaa military base, and things don't sound good, the Intercept reports. In a 10-minute audio clip released by his NGO Reprieve attorneys, Mobley mentioned the military base he's reportedly imprisoned in is being rocked by bombing from Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi rebels, and that he's not sure he'll make it out in one piece. "When they're bombing, they're trying to bomb this building," he says, noting the anti-aircraft guns stationed on its roof. His location is in the building's basement, he says: "I haven't seen the sun in months." Mobley and his wife, Nzinga, also say the US is doing little to nothing to free him.

His backstory is admittedly sticky: US officials had suspected Mobley of having al-Qaeda ties, and when he was "snatched off the streets" in January 2010 and shot in the leg, men who said they were FBI and DoD officers interviewed him in the hospital, the Guardian reports. Shortly after that, Mobley reportedly made an escape attempt in which he was accused of killing a guard; he was imprisoned shortly after that. Now, Mobley's lawyers say, he's been left to fend for himself after the US shut down its Sanaa embassy in February, per the Guardian. A State Department official speaking off the record told the paper in February, "The United States does not evacuate prisoners in a crisis situation"; the department cited "privacy reasons" to the Intercept in refusing to comment. (Read more Yemen stories.)

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