Houthi threat to cut off Red Sea shipping ‘flagrant’ challenge to law

A ship is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen on March 23, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 09 January 2018
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Houthi threat to cut off Red Sea shipping ‘flagrant’ challenge to law

SANAA: A threat by Houthi militias to cut off vital Red Sea shipping routes is a “flagrant” challenge to international law, according to a Yemeni minister.
Abdul-Raqib Fat’h, a minister and chairman of the Yemeni Higher Relief Committee, said in a statement to a Yemeni news agency, and quoted by SPA, that the threat to cut off international navigation in the Red Sea is an “open and flagrant challenge to international and humanitarian laws and the United Nations.”
Saleh Al-Samad, head of the unrecognized coup council in Sana’a, earlier warned that — should a political solution to the conflict in Yemen reach a dead end — they will consider “strategic options” including “cutting off the Red Sea and international navigation,” according to local media reports.
The threat was reportedly made during a meeting with the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Ma’ain Shuraim, and follows hefty losses suffered by Houthi militias on more than one front in Yemen.
Al-Samad also attacked UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, criticizing the role of the UN, which he described as “disappointing,” questioning its credibility in the treatment of the Yemeni crisis.
Several countries have already identified the Houthi threat to navigation in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, and where the Iranian-backed militias have targeted ships and boats on several occasions.
Saudi-led coalition forces and their Yemeni allies last year regained control of several strategic ports, waging an assault against the Houthis. The Saudi Navy has also engaged in numerous mine-sweeping missions on Yemeni shores, amid warnings over explosives planted by the militias.


Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

Updated 25 April 2019
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Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

  • The bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen
  • Govt forces detained the bird on suspicion that the attached GPS tracker was a spy device for Houthi militants

SANAA: Griffon vulture Nelson crossed into war-torn Yemen in search of food but ended up in the hands of Yemeni fighters — and temporarily in jail for suspected espionage.
The sand-colored bird came down in the country’s third city of Taiz, an unusual move for a young vulture that can soar for long distances across continents in search of food and moderate weather.
Nelson, approximately two years old, embarked on his journey in September 2018 from Bulgaria, where his wing was tagged and equipped with a satellite transmitter by the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF).
But he seems to have lost his way, eventually coming down into Taiz — under siege by Houthi rebels but controlled by pro-government forces, who mistook Nelson’s satellite transmitter for an espionage device and detained the bird.
Forces loyal to the government believed that the GPS tracker attached to the bird may have been a spy device for the rebels.
Hisham Al-Hoot, who represents the FWFF in Yemen, traveled from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Taiz to plead with local officials to release the helpless animal.
“It took about 12 days to get the bird,” he told AFP.
“The Bulgarian foreign ministry reached out to the Yemeni ambassador, who in turn contacted local officials (in Taiz) and told them to immediately give the organization the vulture.”
Hoot said that the bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen — where the FWFF lost track of the bird.
Nelson was MIA until April 5, when the conservation group received hundreds of messages from Yemenis concerned about the creatures’ welfare.
Today, the locally-famous vulture is being properly fed and getting stronger every day.
“When we first took him, he was in very bad condition,” said Hoot, adding that the bird was underweight.
Smiling, he puts on gloves and carefully handles the majestic creature — blowing it a kiss.
Hoot said the bird will be released in two months when he believed Nelson will have regained his full strength and his wing — broken somewhere during his journey — will have healed.
“We thought at first it would take six months for him to heal, but now we don’t think it will be more than two months,” he said.
Hoot said that Nelson was not able to find any source of sustenance in Yemen.
“They can eat carcasses of dead animals, but now there is no more with the current situation of war.
“This is what forced him to come down and stopped him from completing his journey.”
The four-year conflict in Yemen has unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with millions facing famine.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened to bolster the efforts of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Since then, at least 10,000 people — most of them civilians — have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Other rights groups estimate the toll could be much higher.