Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain

The scene of a bomb blast that killed a man in a Bahraini village in 2014. A new report shows the weapons have become increasingly sophisticated. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain

  • Weapons-smuggling investigators find links in seized components
  • Tehran regime spreads explosives expertise into eastern part of Kingdom

LONDON: Bomb parts seized by security forces in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain match explosives supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in Yemen, a new report reveals.

The electrical components for improvised explosive devices (IED) were also identical to those seized from a ship off the coast of Yemen in 2013, according to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an organization that tracks smuggled weapons.

The cargo vessel was laden with missiles, rockets and ammunition when it was intercepted by US and Yemeni forces after leaving Iranian waters. UN experts said the regime in Tehran was behind the shipment.

The link raises concerns that Iran-backed militant groups have tried to spread bomb-making expertise into eastern Saudi Arabia from cells in Bahrain, CAR said.

 

 

“There is some evidence to suggest that the increasing domestic capacity of militant factions to manufacture homemade explosives — and IED more broadly — may extend from Bahrain to nearby regions of Saudi Arabia,” it said.

CAR researchers studied IED parts captured from militant groups between 2013 and 2018 in Bahrain, where security forces have been targeted by insurgents.

They also recorded details from components seized in a raid in Awamiyah in eastern Saudi Arabia in April 2017, where militants clashed with security forces for several months.

Another seizure also took place on a bus on the King Fahd causeway that links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia




IEDs and plastic explosives recovered from militant cells in Bahrain in 2017 and 2018. (CAR)

Components from the seizures, including infrared sensors, and radio-controls “are identical or similar” to components documented in Yemen after their capture from Houthi forces and to those found on the cargo ship in 2013, the report said.

“The components either originated in Iran or are linked to Iranian-backed supply networks in the region.”

Iran supports and supplies the Houthis with weapons and has been accused of supporting militant Shiite cells in Bahrain. Arab countries blame Tehran for destabilizing the Middle East with its support of proxy forces, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and armed factions in Iraq.

In Bahrain, the level of sophistication for IED increased dramatically after 2013, when security forces started to intercept ships carrying readymade bomb components among supplies of conventional weapons. The bombs have killed at least 14 security force members and injured dozens in Bahrain since 2013. Before that, crude devices had been used amid protests and rioting in 2011.




Components for making bombs seized in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were studied by experts and found to match those supplied by Iran to Yemen.  (CAR)

The report found that the militants stored the explosive and non-explosive components at separate locations and delayed assembly until close to the time of use.

This “implies that militant factions use relatively sophisticated tactics, techniques, and procedures” and “centralize the construction of non-explosive components in preparation for onward distribution.”

Researchers also found information that usually helps identify components, such as circuit boards, had been systematically removed. The only other place they had seen this carried out to such an extent was in Yemen, among components seized from the Houthis.

“It’s striking that those involved in the supply chain chose to obliterate identifying information and serial numbers of RCIED circuit boards, at a rate much higher than found in CAR’s data set from investigations in Iraq and Syria,” CAR executive director James Bevan said. “It indicates a concerted effort among parties to the illicit supply chain to conceal the origins of materiel and prevent investigations like ours from tracing supply routes.”

*Read the full report from Conflict Armament Research here 


Egypt condemns latest Houthi missile attack on Saudi Arabia

A ballistic missile is seen after it was fired toward the Saudi capital of Riyadh from an undisclosed location in Yemen, in this handout photo released December 19, 2017 by the Houthi movement's War Media. (REUTERS)
Updated 45 min 34 sec ago

Egypt condemns latest Houthi missile attack on Saudi Arabia

  • Foreign ministry expresses solidarity with Kingdom ‘as it faces assaults that target its civilians.’

CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday strongly condemned an attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemeni Houthi militias.

That morning, the Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed four missiles and seven bomb-laden drones. According to a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the drones were launched from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, at targets in the Kingdom.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia “as it faces these assaults that target its civilians.” It also pledged its full support for any defensive measures authorities in the Kingdom take to ensure the country remains safe from terrorism.

The ministry reiterated Egypt’s full support for all efforts to restore peace and stability in Yemen. It said attacks such as the latest on Saudi Arabia will result in an escalation of instability, and called for a ceasefire so that the dispute can be resolved peacefully.

It stressed the importance of engaging in a political process to find a solution that respects the Gulf Cooperation Council and UN Security Council resolution 2216. This confirms Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as Yemen’s internationally-recognized president and calls for the Houthis to return control the country’s capital, Sanaa, which was captured in 2014. The resolution also calls for the Houthis to stop using Yemen as a base from which to attack neighboring countries.

The Houthis took control of the nation in Sep. 2014. Saudi Arabia has been leading the Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy in Yemen since 2015. It includes a number of other Arab nations, including the UAE, Kuwait and Egypt.