Houthi militia in Yemen ‘storm’ World Food Program warehouse

Displaced Yemenis from Hodeidah receiving food aid. The Houthis were accused of storming a World Food Program. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Houthi militia in Yemen ‘storm’ World Food Program warehouse

  • WFP warehouse in Hodeidah turned into a "military barracks"
  • Minister says thousands of families caught in crossfire

CAIRO: A Yemeni minister has accused Houthi militants of storming a warehouse used by the World Food Program to store humanitarian aid in Hodeidah.

Abdel-Raqeeb Fateh, the minister of local administration, said on Friday that the Houthis have turned the WFP warehouse in Al-Durayhimi district into a military barracks, AP reported.

Hodeida, Yemen’s largest port, has become the center of the fighting between pro-government forces and the Iran-backed Houthis, who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Fateh added that thousands of families were caught in the district's crossfire between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition forces fighting them.

Fateh said the Houthis are intimidating humanitarian workers and called for a condemnation from the UN.

The Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, is supporting the government troops in the battle to recapture Hodeidah and restore the government.

The Saudi-led coalition accused the Houthis of carrying out a mortar attack on a hospital and fish market in Yemen earlier this month that killed at least 55 people. 

The UN on Friday said it had invited the Yemeni government and the Houthis to peace talks in Geneva on September 6.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said earlier this month he would convene the talks to try and bring an end to the three-year conflict has killed more than 10,000 people.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 54 sec ago
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.