Yemeni tribes in Al-Bayda province revolt against Houthis

Tensions between Al-Awadh and the Houthis have been building up since early last month. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2020

Yemeni tribes in Al-Bayda province revolt against Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: At least 23 people were killed on Wednesday and Thursday in the central province of Al-Bayda during heavy fighting that broke out when the Iran-backed Houthis moved to suppress an uprising led by powerful tribes, residents have told Arab News.
The Houthis on Wednesday night launched missile and drone attacks on Radman district before deploying forces on the ground to suppress a rebellion by local tribes known as Al-Awadh. The aerial assault hit buildings, killing three people. 
On Thursday, at least 20 Houthis were killed after tribesmen foiled their advance toward Radman.
“We pushed back their offensive on Radman after destroying several vehicles and killing many Houthis,” Mustafa Al-Baydani, a journalist from Radman district, told Arab News by telephone. “They failed to advance in the mountainous areas and the tribes are determined to go ahead with fighting.” 
Tensions between Al-Awadh and the Houthis have been building up since early last month, when the Houthis refused to punish local fighters who had killed a woman called Jehad Al-Asbahi.
Led by Yasser Al-Awadhi, a senior member of the General People’s Congress party and a staunch supporter of Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Al-Awadh tribes have not engaged in anti-Houthi military operations over the last five years even after Houthi killed Saleh in late 2017. When the Houthis refused to admit killing the woman, the tribesmen took up arms and vowed to punish the militia.
Al-Awadhi urged local tribes to come together to push back Houthi aggressions on their territories.
A Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, accused Al-Awadhi of leading a rebellion and attacking their followers in Radman. Yemeni politicians, tribesmen and activists, who oppose the Houthis, have hailed the tribal uprising in Radman and urged the internationally recognized government and local tribesmen to stand by Al-Awadhi tribes against the Houthis.
Ahmed bin Dagher, an adviser to the Yemeni president and a former prime minister, praised army troops who scored victories in Marib, Jawf and Al-Baydha during the latest fighting with the Houthis, calling on Yemenis to support any uprising against the Houthis. 
“A special greeting to those (fighters) who are standing with Sheikh (Yasser) Al-Awadi,” bin Dagher tweeted on Thursday.
In Nehim district, near Houthi-controlled Sanaa, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition destroyed 20 military vehicles carrying Houthi fighters and military equipment bound for the battlefield, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said. 
Fighting has been raging in Nehim for more than six days as government forces push to make territorial gains in the rugged mountainous area and break years of military stalemate in the district. 
The ministry said that the army and allied tribesmen had seized control of a number locations in Nehim, crediting precise airstrikes by coalition warplanes for paving the way for progress on the ground and preventing Houthis from regrouping and resupplying.
The conflict is ongoing despite the coronavirus pandemic. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that Yemen’s COVID-19 fatality rate was “alarming” and four times higher than the global average.
The national coronavirus committee said Wednesday that the total number of confirmed infections in government-controlled areas was 902 and that the death toll was 244.
 


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.”