Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1121, 8-14 November
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1121, 8-14 November

Ahram Weekly

Arms smuggling in Yemen

A load of biscuits and chocolates were intended to poison Yemen’s politics, says Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

Al-Ahram Weekly

A cargo of smuggled weapons was discovered this week in the harbour of Aden in the south of Yemen. More than 3,000 Glock pistols and their accessories were hidden in biscuit boxes, stirring a lot of controversy about who was behind such a dangerous cargo and why now when political tension remains high and assassinations continue.
The cargo came from the Turkish harbour of Mersin and passed through the Saudi harbour of Jeddah before arriving in the Yemeni harbour of Aden.
After a big clamour and rumours that these pistols were supposed to be used for more political assassinations with the aim of controlling the political process, the Yemeni authorities quickly announced that it would deal with the smuggled cargo according to Yemeni law.
And they also charged a businessman who might have been pressured to put his name in the documents of the cargo which was listed as biscuits and chocolates. Some observers even say the name written in the documents is a forgery, because there is not yet any comment from his side.
Accusations are being exchanged between three groups which have alleged connections with regional states. The first group is the largest Islamist Sunni party Islah (the Yemen Muslim Brotherhood) which is accused of having links with the ruling Islamist party of Turkey.
And second is the group of Al-Houthi Shia rebels who are accused of having links with Iran. The third group is the southern separatist movement Hirak, which is also accused of receiving support from Iran.
The Al-Houthi and Hirak groups accused the influential tribal leader of Islah, Hamid Al-Ahmar, of having imported the cargo of pistols with the aim of implementing political assassinations of activists from the two groups.
“The cargo was imported for Hamid Al-Ahmar by the leading member of Islah in Aden, Nabil Ghanim,” said Ali Al-Bukhaiti, leading activist of Al-Houthi. “Ghanim assigned his friend Adnan Sabu to carry out the procedures of customs clearance, and both of them were working for Hamid who is smart enough not to put his name in the documents of the cargo.”
The political activist Al-Bukhaiti said in a statement sent to media that the cargo of weapons would not have passed through Turkey and Saudi Arabia without coordination with intelligence of these countries.
“Turkey supports the Brotherhood in Yemen and Saudi Arabia supports tribesmen and Salafis to confront Ansar Allah,” he said. Al-Houthi group call themselves Ansar Allah.
And on his part, the secretary-general of Hirak, Hassan Al-Yazidi said, “the cargo belongs to Hamid Al-Ahmar.”
In March 2011, a similar cargo of pistols coming from Turkey was discovered in Dubai. Fingers were pointed to Hamid Al-Ahmar, the Islamist billionaire and tribal influential leader who is known for his high political ambitions.
Al-Ahmar family and Sunni Islamist of Islah accuses the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters and his party of supporting Al-Houthi and Hirak.
Whoever was behind the cargo of weapons, it is a very dangerous sign for Yemen, which is trying to hold a national dialogue in the middle of this month in an attempt to find a political formula to contain all these groups under one state.
All Yemeni media outlets and social media are spending most of their time talking and arguing about such a dangerous deal.
However, the national unity government kept silent. The chairman of Yemeni customs authority, Mohamed Mansour Zemam, said that the cargo of weapons seized in Aden harbour belongs to a Yemeni businessman based in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
In an official statement to the state-run agency Saba, Zemam identified the businessman as Rashid Saleh Abdu Al-Badani. Zemam said that the cargo contains 3,171 pistols and their accessories.
According to information obtained from the Chamber of Commerce in Sanaa, the businessman Al-Badani got the import licence only four months ago. And his licence is for importing electrical equipment under the name Universal Company for Importing. Because of corruption and connections, more than 60 per cent of the licences are given to frontmen who are exploited by senior figures to import suspicious deals, according to sources in the Chamber of Commerce.

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