Turkey jails 7 more in Istanbul airport attack

Honour guards carry the portrait and coffin of Eyup Oksuz, a 21-year-old Turkish soldier killed in an attack blamed on Kurdish militants in the eastern city of Van on July 9, during his funeral in Ankara on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2016

Turkey jails 7 more in Istanbul airport attack

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court has jailed seven suspects pending trial on terrorism charges over last month’s triple suicide bombing at Istanbul’s main airport, bringing the number in custody to 37, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The attack at Ataturk Airport killed 45 people and wounded hundreds, the deadliest in a series of bombings this year in Turkey.
The seven suspects were detained on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist group” and being accomplices to murder, Anadolu said. The private Dogan news agency said all seven were foreign nationals.
Media reports have said at least 11 of those detained were Russian.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended his plan to give Syrian refugees Turkish citizenship, arguing there was ample space in the country after a backlash against the suggestion, in comments published Monday.
Erdogan said on July 2 that Syrians could eventually be granted Turkish citizenship “if they want it,” in remarks which were met with anger from opposition politicians and social media users.
More than 2.7 million Syrian refugees now live in Turkey, where they have guest status, according to the Turkish government.
In his first comments on the issue since announcing the plan, the president said if Syrians had dual citizenship it did not mean they had to return to Syria once the conflict was over.
“Is it a must for dual citizens, for people with citizenship, to return to their countries of birth?” he told Turkish reporters on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Warsaw, quoted by the Hurriyet daily.
“When Turks went to Germany in 1963, no one asked whether they would or would not return to Turkey,” he said, referring to the Turkish so-called Gastarbeiter who helped Germany’s economic recovery after World War II.
He added: “There is no need to worry, this country has 79 million people living on 780,000 sq. km of land. “Germany is half our size and has 85 million people,” he added, lightly overstating the German population. “We are a country that can easily overcome (challenges).”
The president even suggested that empty homes built by the state housing agency could be used to house Syrians. “Most of these Syrians work illegally.
“What we’re saying is there needs to be a solution. Among these people, there are doctors, engineers, lawyers, health workers, teachers, all of these people can benefit our country: they can be given citizenship,” Erdogan added.


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.”