Iran-supplied weapons smuggled from Yemen to Somalia: study

Weapons supplied by Iran to its Houthi allies in Yemen are smuggled through the Gulf of Aden into Somalia, according to a Geneva-based think tank, where al-Shabab insurgents linked to al Qaeda are fighting a government. weak and divided.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime said its study was based on data from more than 400 weapons documented at 13 locations in Somalia over eight months and inventories of 13 dhows intercepted by warships.

It is the first publicly available investigation into the scale of illicit arms smuggling from Yemen to the Horn of Africa country.

“Arms originating from the Iran-Yemen arms trade are being trafficked into Somalia itself,” said the study, due to be published on Wednesday.

“Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in arms trafficking to the Houthis. However, a preponderance of evidence points to the Iranian state supply.”

The Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building, which houses the IAEA headquarters, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021 (credit: LISI NIESNER / REUTERS).

Iran’s Foreign Ministry and a spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi forces did not respond to a request for comment on the study. Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in arms trafficking to its Houthi allies in Yemen, where the six-year civil war has killed tens of thousands.

The Somali government spokesman and the internal security minister did not return calls or messages seeking comment.

The study said investigators were unable to fully document the buyers and sellers of the guns.

But he said the signals that the weapons were originally supplied by the Iranian state included very close serial numbers, indicating they were part of the same shipment, information from satellite navigation systems on seized dhows and human intelligence from trafficking gangs. .

A weapons-carrying dhow that was seized by a US Navy vessel had a GPS with points stored in Iran, southern Yemen and Somalia, according to the report, including a small anchorage near the port of Jask, which is home to a naval base. Iranian, and “home” as the Yemeni port of Mukalla, a notorious arms smuggling hub.

The study said the weapons end up in smuggling trade networks whose clients may include armed factions seeking advantage ahead of Somalia’s repeatedly delayed presidential elections, as well as rival Islamist clan militias and insurgent groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. .

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