Flow of Smuggled Weapons to Yemen Continues Despite De-escalation

Sheba Intelligence | 2023-10-30 02:03 PM UTC


Weapon smuggling into Yemen has continued non-stop over the last nine years. The Houthi takeover of Sanaa in 2014 and their move to oust the UN-recognized government led to a civil war and prompted a foreign military intervention led by the Arab Coalition in 2015. Since then, the Houthi group has focused on smuggling to obtain Iranian weapons. The long coasts to the west and south of Yemen and crossings with the Sultanate of Oman have turned into continuous smuggling outlets.

Despite the truce, de-escalation, and dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in preparation for a peace agreement in Yemen, the Houthis continue to arm themselves through smuggling, particularly through Yemen’s Al-Mahra border with Oman.

On October 28, the police in Al-Mahra caught a shipment coming from the United Arab Emirates, which included twenty drone jamming devices, along with about 1,660 Redmi phones.

On October 22, Somali smugglers confessed to the security authorities in Al-Mahrathat they had smuggled 250 weapons in exchange for money from smuggling gangs affiliated with the Houthis. When the gang members disagreed with the Houthis on the reward, they handed over the weapons to the security.

In July, 16 defendants, including 7 Iranians, were referred to the criminal prosecution in Hadhramout in connection with drug smuggling and trafficking cases. They had narcotic substances, including about (3 tons) of narcotic hashish, and 173 kilograms of heroin. Observers believe that the money these gangs collect goes to support the Houthis.

However, there were two dangerous smuggling operations that international investigators have been interested in, as these smuggled operations may be used in cross-border operations. The first was in January this year when the security authorities thwarted the smuggling of 100 drone engines. The second was the smuggling of Kornet anti-armor missiles in March 2022, and these two operations occurred at the Al-Mahra border crossing with Oman.

In July this year, a security force seized approximately 4 tons of chemicals containing highly flammable materials used for military purposes inside a hangar in the city of Inmaa in Buraiqa district of Aden. According to specialists’ reports, the seized items contained aluminum powder, a substance that can be mixed with ammonium perchlorate to produce powerful rocket fuel. The shipment also contained unmarked bags of iron oxide powder, which is used as an additive to rocket fuel, as it works as a combustion rate enhancer.

In June, the security authorities in Lahj province seized drone parts, eavesdropping devices, and wireless devices, which were hidden in a shipment of children’s toys.

An investigation by Sheba Intelligence on missiles - to be published later - touched on smuggling Kornet missiles and revealed some details related to the smuggled rocket shipment. The number of missiles seized was 52, each 1 meter and 52 cm long. “Iran” was written on the rockets in English, and the years of manufacture ranged from 2018 to 2021. The rockets were hidden in a shipment of generators.

In November 2022, the US Fifth Fleet said that the US Navy seized a shipment estimated at approximately 70 tons of “ammonium chlorate,” which is commonly used in making rocket fuel as well as explosives, along with another 100 tons of “urea,” which is used in making explosives.

The report of the Panel of Experts of the Security Council, published February 2023, said that some of the weapons seized on the Omani border have technical characteristics and markings consistent with those manufactured in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Panel also investigated the smuggling of launch containers for anti-tank guided missiles, concealed inside a commercial truck, across the land border with Oman. The Panel identified a network of Houthi-affiliated individuals in Yemen and Oman that recruits crew members, facilitates their movement across government-held territory and arranges vehicles and boats for them. The Panel’s report confirmed that the Houthi group used land routes to smuggle weapons from the eastern border, in addition to the sea routes used by smuggling networks coming from Iran towards the Yemeni regions.