Houthi arms smuggling ring reveals routes and techniques

JEDDAH: A recently dismantled smuggling cell loyal to the Houthis in Yemen has given more information on Iran’s arms transport routes and techniques and added more evidence of its military support for the militia, reports said Yemeni officials.

The Yemeni government’s Joint Forces, an umbrella term for three large military units on the country’s west coast, released a video on Saturday showing the confessions of four Houthi cell members involved in smuggling Iranian weapons into controlled areas. by the Houthis.

The joint forces said they recently dismantled Houthi cells along the west coast involved in smuggling weapons, spying and targeting military and security officials in Yemen.

The four men have been smuggling weapons from Iran to Yemen for five years.

Cell leader Ali Mohammed Halhali remains at large, the Joint Forces said, and promised to release more videos of other Houthi smugglers and agents in the coming days.

Based on the confessions, the Yemeni smugglers usually sailed from different coastal towns such as Sheher in the southeastern province of Hadramout and Al-Ghaydah in the eastern province of Mahra.

They encountered another group of Yemeni smugglers at a location in the Gulf of Oman, where they transported Iranian weapons from their boats before heading to a transit point in Somalia.

Later, another group of smugglers would take the same cargo to Yemen.

Some boats docked in Houthi-controlled areas in the Red Sea, while other weapons-laden ships entered government-controlled areas in the Arabian Sea or the Red Sea.

Cell member Ibrahim Omer Hassan Akad said he and several smugglers sailed from Sheher to the Gulf of Oman, where they encountered other smugglers carrying weapons from Iran.

The smugglers then headed to the Somali port of Berbera, where they delivered the cargo to other Yemeni smugglers who transported the goods to Yemen.

After successfully delivering the weapons, Akad would embark on another journey using the same routes through Sheher, the Gulf of Oman and the Somali coast.

During one of his trips, he and other smugglers were asked to sail to Iran where they received weapons directly from Iranians and handed them over to other Yemenis.

Akad said he also smuggled fuel and fertilizer to the Houthis through some Somali ports.

The other smugglers, Mustafa Ahmed Gadad, Ali Mohammed Halhali and Hussein Yahiya Futaini, said the Houthis gave some of them 1.5 million yen ($5,994) for each trip and they were captured by the US Navy in 2018 while transporting weapons from Iran. in Yemen.

The United States confiscated the weapons and handed over the smugglers to authorities in Aden, who then released them.

The smugglers mentioned Bandar Abbas in Iran as a key starting point for Iranian arms shipments and said they received training in smuggling from the Iranians.

Yemeni government officials, journalists and activists have called for punishing the Iranians for undermining peace in Yemen by arming the militia, arguing that the Houthis’ arms smuggling showed they were preparing for war.

Yemeni journalist Hassan Ghaleb said the confession contradicted Houthis’ claims that they had manufactured missiles, drones and other weapons in Yemen and refuted their refusal to receive military support from Iran.

“Smuggling is the most important source the Houthis rely on to obtain various weapons, especially guided missiles, drones and Iranian military technology,” Ghaleb said.

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