Daesh blamed for Yemen care home attack, pope ‘shocked’

Updated 06 March 2016

Daesh blamed for Yemen care home attack, pope ‘shocked’

ADEN, Yemen: Yemeni authorities on Saturday blamed the Daesh group for an attack on a care home run by missionaries that killed 16 people and was condemned by Pope Francis as “diabolical.”
Rival jihadist movement Al-Qaeda distanced itself from the mass shooting Friday in the main southern city of Aden, saying it was not responsible.
Gunmen stormed the refuge for the elderly operated by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, killing a Yemeni guard before tying up and shooting 15 other employees, officials said.
Four foreign nuns working as nurses were among those killed.
The Vatican missionary news agency Fides identified the nuns as two Rwandans, a Kenyan and an Indian, adding that the mother superior managed to hide and survive while an Indian priest was missing.
Screams of elderly residents echoed from the home during the shooting rampage, witnesses said, recounting seeing the bodies of slain workers with their arms tied behind their back.
No group has yet claimed the attack in the war-torn country, where the internationally recognized government is grappling with both an Iran-backed rebellion and a growing jihadist presence.

'Devil's act'
An unnamed Yemeni presidency source in Riyadh said that those behind such “treacherous terrorist acts” are individuals who have “sold themselves to the devil,” in a statement on the official sabanew.net website.
“There was no trace of these groups, which go under the name of the Islamic State or (its Arabic acronym) Daesh” when pro-government forces were battling the Houthi rebels and their allies to push them out of Aden last year, the source said, accusing them of “switching roles” with the Iran-backed rebels.
In a statement addressed to the residents of Aden, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also known as Ansar Al-Sharia, denied “any links to the attack on the elderly care home.”
“These are not our operations and this is not our way of fighting,” said the group, which has seized parts of southern and eastern Yemen.
Al-Qaeda has previously criticized Daesh for attacks on Shiite mosques in Yemen that left dozens dead.
Al-Qaeda and Daesh have stepped up attacks in Aden, targeting mainly loyalists and members of a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels since March last year.
The Houthis controlled Aden for months before government loyalists pushed them out in July.
On Saturday, gunmen opened fire at a police patrol in Aden killing two policemen, a security official said.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has declared the city to be Yemen’s temporary capital as Sanaa has been in the hands of the Houthis and their allies since September 2014.

Pope 'shocked'
The Vatican’s Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said that Pope Francis was "shocked and profoundly saddened" by the attack
“He sends the assurance of his prayers for the dead and his spiritual closeness to their families and to all affected from this act of senseless and diabolical violence,” Parolin said in a statement.
Violence has mounted in Yemen during the past year with more than 6,000 people killed since the Saudi-led coalition began its campaign of air strikes in late March 2015.
On Saturday, Hadi discussed the stalled peace process with UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Riyadh, sabanew.net reported.
“Goodwill gestures and confidence-building measures by releasing detainees, lifting the siege on cities, and opening safe corridors to deliver humanitarian assistance to besieged provinces... are necessities that must be met” by the rebels, Hadi told the UN envoy.
Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador said Friday that he hoped peace talks could resume by March 15.
The United Nations says more than 80 percent of the population is in dire need of food, medicine and other basic necessities and the crisis ranks as a “Level 3 emergency,” the most serious in the UN system.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

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.”