Yemen Cabinet, UN envoy condemn Houthi attack

Shards of glass and a door that came off following an attack on the UN De-escalation and Coordination Committee building in Dhahran on Monday. (SPA)
Updated 01 February 2017

Yemen Cabinet, UN envoy condemn Houthi attack

ADEN: The targeting of the UN De-escalation and Coordination Committee building in Dhahran Al-Janoub by Houthi militias and troops loyal to deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh is a clear expression of their violent tactics and of lack of respect for the international community, said the Yemeni Cabinet.
According to the Yemeni news agency SABA, Tuesday’s Cabinet statement accused the coup militia of continuing to disrupt the work of the coordination committee and of refusing to begin cease-fire talks that would eventually end the war it ignited, playing the destabilizing and destructive Iranian game.
In the statement, the Cabinet said the coup militia will continue to act in a manner that destabilizes the country, including by targeting naval vessels and using the Hodeidah port for military purposes as long as the international community allows it to get away with its refusal to implement its binding, explicit and clear decisions designed to put an end to the coup and restore the legitimate government.
The legitimate government of Yemen and the Yemeni people condemn the horrible criminal act that targeted the UN building housing its staff, which is a violation of all humanitarian and international covenants and norms, said the statement.
The government had warned the UN and the international community against the intentions of Houthi and Saleh militias, which refuse to comply with UN resolutions and the popular will in Yemen, which rejects the coup.
The Cabinet reiterated that attacks such as Tuesday’s expose the terrorist nature of the militias and the Iranian sectarian project whose ambitions exceed the Yemeni borders.
The statement called for the restoration of the legitimate government, an end to the coup and the application of the terms of reference agreed upon with local and international stakeholders for a political solution as suggested in the Gulf initiative, of the recommendations of the National Dialogue and of Security Council Resolution 2216.
Meanwhile, UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Sheikh condemned the attack on the UN building, which he described as “tragic and is not a sign of good faith.”
In a statement, Ould Sheikh said the attack took place “at a time when we are calling for a new cessation of hostilities,” adding that the building attacked by the militias was to host the committee that will oversee the cessation of hostilities and report on violations.
He also said that the UN maintains a regular presence in that building and urged the Houthi and Saleh’s rebel militias to commit to and support the De-escalation and Coordination Committee’s work toward a renewed cease-fire.
Ould Sheikh said that the warring parties in Yemen can only benefit from a rapid and long-lasting cessation of hostilities, stressing that an improvement in the security situation is bound to give space to dialogue.
In his last week’s briefing of the Security Council, Ould Sheikh said that those who seek a military solution in Yemen are only prolonging the suffering of the people and allowing the terrorist threat to increase, which adds to the challenges and will delay recovery after the war ends.
He also said that the two warring parties need the political courage and will to stop the two-year-old war.

The Gulf’s war on smugglers

Updated 22 August 2019

The Gulf’s war on smugglers

  • Recent busts have included cash, cannabis and Captagon
  • Tech-savvy criminals play cat-and mouse with tech-savvy criminals

DUBAI: Bulk cash couriers, narcotics mules, counterfeit goods, wildlife trafficking —  spotting smugglers is all part of a day’s work for customs officials and law enforcement professionals in the Gulf.

Experts say that illegal trafficking in all its guises is bringing in billions each year for criminals worldwide, and the problem is increasing across the globe and the region.

In Saudi Arabia this week alone, officials arrested four passengers attempting to smuggle SR3.1 million ($830,000) in cash out of Madinah’s airport, while Saudi Arabian Border Guards intercepted two boats carrying large quantities of cannabis into the Kingdom. In a third bust, Saudi customs thwarted two attempts to bring more than 2.5 million Captagon (amphetamine) pills hidden in two vehicles into the Kingdom via a port.

Adel Hamaizia, a research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at the think tank Chatham House, told Arab News that money laundering,  or cash smuggling, is a major trafficking problem for the Kingdom and wider GCC.

Smuggling of cash is a major trafficking issue for the Kingdom and region, adding to the problem of capital flight.  

“One of the methods aiding capital flight in the GCC is old-school smuggling of cash as well as precious metals,” he said. 

But trafficking of drugs, fuel and even wildlife are also adding to pressures facing customs officials.

“Cross-border fuel smuggling from Saudi Arabia into its neighbors has remained an enduring feature. However, energy pricing reforms in the Kingdom in recent years have stifled smugglers’ margins if not canceled them out altogether,” said Hamaizia. “When it comes to drugs, countries of the GCC serve as consumption destinations and transit hubs, but not production spaces.”

Many countries in the region serve as transit hubs for drug smuggling as a result of geography, infrastructure, porous borders and lengthy coastlines, he said.

“Drugs smuggled into GCC states include qat, opium, cannabis, and Captagon (the family of drugs known as amphetamines). Captagon is one of the major drugs smuggled from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. 

“Wildlife smuggling such as houbara birds, pangolins, ivory, rhinoceros horns and others are also common across Gulf states. Doha serves as transit hubs for birds, mammals, ivory, and reptiles being transported between Africa and Asia.”

The Gulf is a transit point for trade passing through the region, so any and all types of illicit goods are smuggled.

Channing Mavrellis, of the think tank Global Financial Integrity, which works to curtail trade-related illicit financial flows, also highlighted the growing threat smugglers pose in the GCC. “The Gulf is a transit point for trade passing through the region, so any and all types of illicit goods are smuggled,” he said.

Experts say smuggling tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated. “The methods used depend largely on the type of good being smuggled, its quantity and the level of risk/enforcement,” said Mavrellis. “For bulk cash smuggling or drug trafficking in smaller quantities, someone may simply conceal the illicit goods on their body or in their luggage. For larger quantities, smugglers may conceal the goods in a shipment of legitimate goods.”

However, Hamaizia warned that criminals are adopting new high-tech tactics. “The smuggling of lightweight drugs is now often supported by drones,” he said.

Smugglers are also turning to social media. In a report — Social Media and Drug Smuggling — published in journals earlier this year, authors noted the trend, saying: “Social media can be used for legal or illegal purposes by many individuals. Some may use these applications for drug smuggling. For example, Saudi Arabia Directorate General of Narcotics Control has arrested eight individuals for drug smuggling through social media.”

Saudi Arabia’s Border Guards this week intercepted two boats carrying large quantities of cannabis.  (Social media photo)

According to customs law jointly adopted by GCC countries, illegal transportation of goods can carry a jail term of up to 15 years. 

Meanwhile, many criminals are attempting to take advantage of the busy transit routes in the region.

Hamaizia said: “Traffickers and smugglers often opt for busier international airports where they may benefit from sloppier screening. Smugglers also focus on connecting flights, where screening is rushed and even non-existent in some cases.”

At Dubai International Airport, one of the region’s busiest hubs, authorities caught more than 1,000 people attempting to smuggle illegal goods into the UAE last year, with officials employing a wealth of new technologies. 

These include the Ionscan 500 DT, which can detect a wide range of military, commercial and homemade explosives as well as common illegal drugs, and the Thermo FirstDefender, a handheld device used to identify unknown solids or liquid chemicals.

Mavrellis said the challenge at busy transit routes was to search and question travelers while keeping operations running smoothly. 

“High volumes of international trade can make detecting smuggling difficult as customs agencies must strike a balance between trade facilitation and enforcement. Basically, it is the problem of finding a needle in a haystack — but without taking too much time,” he said.