Re­port points to Iran arms pipe­line to Ye­men

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tors have found a sus­pected “weapon pipe­line” from Iran through So­ma­lia to Ye­men where Shi­ite rebels are bat­tling the gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased yes­ter­day. Saudi Ara­bia and the United States have ac­cused Iran of arm­ing the Houthi rebels in Ye­men, but Tehran de­nies the charges. Since March last year Riyadh has led an Arab coali­tion fight­ing the Houthis and their al­lies in sup­port of Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized pres­i­dent, Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi, af­ter the rebels over­ran much of the coun­try. The anal­y­sis by Con­flict Ar­ma­ment Re­search (CAR) is based on the seizure in Fe­bru­ary and March this year of weapons from dhows, tra­di­tional sail­ing ves­sels, in the Ara­bian Sea.

Bri­tish-based CAR, which is pri­mar­ily funded by the Euro­pean Union, an­a­lyzed pho­to­graphs of weapons con­fis­cated from the dhows by the Aus­tralian war­ship HMAS Dar­win and the French frigate FS Provence. The ships were part of a joint in­ter­na­tional task force that op­er­ates sep­a­rately from the Saudi coali­tion. HMAS Dar­win seized more than 2,000 weapons, in­clud­ing AK-type as­sault ri­fles and 100 Ira­nian-man­u­fac­tured rocket launch­ers, from the dhow bound for So­ma­lia, CAR said. The seizure by FS Provence in­cluded 2,000 as­sault ri­fles “char­ac­ter­is­tic of Ira­nian man­u­fac­ture” and 64 Hosh­dar-M Ira­nian-made sniper ri­fles, all of which were in new con­di­tion, CAR said.

There were also nine Rus­sian-made Kor­net anti-tank guided mis­siles, it said. UAE forces within the Saudi-led coali­tion re­ported re­cov­er­ing in Ye­men a Kor­net which CAR said is part of “the same pro­duc­tion run” as those on the dhow. This “sup­ports al­le­ga­tions that the weapons orig­i­nated in Iran and that the dhow’s cargo was des­tined for Ye­men,” CAR said. French gov­ern­ment sources said the dhow was headed to So­ma­lia “for pos­si­ble tran­ship­ment to Ye­men,” CAR said.

Light ma­chine guns, sus­pected to be North Korean made, were found with the same se­rial num­ber se­quence on both dhows, “which sug­gests that the ma­teriel de­rived from the same orig­i­nal con­sign­ment,” the re­port added. It also re­ferred to the US Navy’s seizure from a dhow in March of AK-type as­sault ri­fles, rocket launch­ers and ma­chine guns which the US be­lieved “orig­i­nated in Iran and were des­tined for Ye­men.” Two of the dhows were made by Al Man­soor of Iran, CAR said. Although their find­ings were “rel­a­tively lim­ited,” the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said their anal­y­sis “sug­gests the ex­is­tence of a weapon pipe­line ex­tend­ing from Iran to So­ma­lia and Ye­men”.

This in­volves “sig­nif­i­cant quan­ti­ties of Ira­nian-man­u­fac­tured weapons and weapons that plau­si­bly de­rive from Ira­nian stock­piles,” they said. It said that traf­fick­ers off­load weapons in the semi­au­tonomous re­gion of Punt­land in north­ern So­ma­lia “for lo­cal arms mar­kets or as tran­ship­ment points for on­ward sup­ply to Ye­men”. Other an­a­lysts have ques­tioned the ex­tent of Tehran’s in­flu­ence over the Houthis, a mi­nor­ity group which fought six wars against Ye­men’s gov­ern­ment from 2004 to 2010. — AFP

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