Sudan's sovereign council declares state of emergency in Port Sudan

Sudan's newly-created sovereign council formally declared a state of emergency in the city of Port Sudan. (File/Reuters)
Updated 25 August 2019

Sudan's sovereign council declares state of emergency in Port Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudan's newly-created sovereign council formally declared a state of emergency in the city of Port Sudan on Sunday, following tribal clashes that police say have killed at least 16 people.
The acting governor and the head of the national security service for the eastern Red Sea state, of which Port Sudan is the capital, were both dismissed, said Brigadier Altahir Abuhaja, spokesman for the sovereign council.
This comes at a delicate time for Sudan, following the signing of a power-sharing agreement earlier this month.
The joint military-civilian sovereign council was sworn in last week, as was Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is set to form a government later this week.
Clashes between members of the Beni Amer and Nuba tribes, which have flared up in the past, were re-ignited on Wednesday and continued into Saturday morning, a police statement said.
Eyewitnesses told Reuters they heard and saw gunfire in the Port Sudan neighbourhoods where both tribes live.
Port Sudan is Sudan's main sea gateway, and is used by South Sudan to export oil.
"The relevant authorities have observed the use of firearms in the conflict for the first time, which reveals the existence of external and internal interference to fuel the conflict and spread it to other areas," Abuhaja said.
Security services were placed on high readiness in order to quell any escalation, and an investigative committee has been formed, he added.
The police statement said reinforcements had been sent to the area.
"The transitional sovereign council emphasizes the neutrality of the military and security services ... Anyone who is shown to be biased to either side because of affiliation or support will be dealt with decisively," Abuhaja said.
Two members of the sovereign council had visited Port Sudan on Thursday and met with tribal leaders in an attempt to bring an end to the fighting.
According to the power-sharing agreement, the sovereign council declares a state of emergency following a request from the cabinet, which is not yet in existence. The state of emergency must then be approved by the legislature within 15 days, according to the agreement, although the legislature is yet to be formed. 


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 9 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.”