Aden liberation doubles Yemen Eid joy

Updated 19 July 2015

Aden liberation doubles Yemen Eid joy

ADEN: Yemen’s exiled government announced Friday the “liberation” of second city Aden after four months of devastating fighting between loyalist forces and Iran-backed rebels.
But the rebels continued to control some districts of the city, witnesses said, adding that fighting was under way in central areas of the southern port. “The government announces the liberation of the province of Aden on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr which falls on July 17,” Vice President Khaled Bahah said on Facebook.
“We will work to restore life in Aden and all the liberated cities, to restore water and electricity,” said Bahah, who is also prime minister.
A government statement confirmed the liberation of Aden province. On Tuesday, loyalist forces launched Operation Golden Arrow against the Shiite Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of Aden in March, forcing the government into exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The counteroffensive was carried out by southern militiamen of the Popular Resistance, backed by reinforcements freshly trained and equipped in Saudi Arabia.
The government’s official news agency said loyalist forces had mopped up the last pockets of rebel resistance in the city’s Mualla district Thursday. They secured the airport and the surrounding Khormaksar diplomatic district earlier this week.
Clashes are raging on the edges of Mualla, which leads into Tawahi, they said.
Fighters backing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi “are trying to advance toward Tawahi but they are facing resistance,” said one witness.
Five civilians and seven southern fighters were killed in Mualla and Crater districts, medical sources said.
Journalist Radfan Al-Dubiss, who heads the South Voice local radio station, was also wounded when a bullet hit him in the head, an AFP correspondent reported.
In an Eid speech, Hadi paid tribute to loyalist fighters and vowed that Aden would be the stepping stone to victory nationwide.
“Aden will be the key to Yemen’s salvation,” Hadi said in the speech broadcast late Thursday. “From Aden we will regain all of Yemen.”

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 30 min 59 sec ago

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”