Yemen’s President has asked his Iranian counterpart to stop backing armed groups on its soil after coastguards seized a consignment of missiles and rockets believed sent by the Islamic Republic, a government official said on Thursday.
Iran has denied any connection to the weapons, found aboard a vessel off the coast on January 23 in an operation coordinated with the U.S. Navy.
But government official Abdel-Rashid Abdel Hafez said President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had contacted Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to demand Tehran stop smuggling in weapons. Hafez gave no further details of the message.
“This is the most dangerous arms shipment being smuggled to Yemen,” Yemeni Deputy Interior Minister Abdel-Rahman Hanash told Reuters.
“It contained anti-aircraft missiles, C4 high explosives materials which only a few countries in the Middle East possess,” he added.
Yemen has complained to the U.N. Security Council and asked for the weapons shipment to be investigated by the Council’s group of experts that monitors compliance with the Iran sanctions regime. It includes a ban on arms exports, U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, said on Thursday.
“The shipment contains weapons and some of the weapons are sophisticated weapons, surface to air missiles, for example. The government made a request to the sanctions committee for a full investigation,” Benomar told reporters.
“They (the sanctions committee) will establish the facts on what happened, where the shipment came from, who were the recipients, et cetera,” he said.
The 15-member Council is also discussing whether to issue a U.S.-drafted statement on the weapons shipment.
Yemeni state television on Wednesday showed Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtan and National Security Board Head Ali al-Ahmadi inspecting the weapons including 122 mm Katyusha rockets, anti-aircraft Strella 1 and 2 missiles, RPG launchers, explosives materials and Iranian-made night vision goggles.
Hanash said that while the investigation into the shipment was still under way, it was certain that the weapons were destined for an insurgent group. He did not name the group.
A source at Hadi’s office said the arms were destined for Houthi rebels.
Meanwhile, The patrols of Border Guards in Jazan region of Saudi Arabia foiled Sunday the smuggling of arms and drugs.
The Guards' Information Spokesman Colonel Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Mahfouz pointed out that the patrols seized 608 pistols, 39,200 shots of live ammunition, and 5 kilograms of hashish.
Source: Reuters; SPA - Photo: Yemen’s Defense Ministry