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rebels

Houthi, Saleh militias 'torture Yemenis into 480 secret prisons'.

BreakingNews @en di

The National Committe for Human Rights in Yemen published a report stating that Houthi’s militias and supporters of ousted Pesident Saleh established 480 secret prisons across Yemeni governorates under their control. The statement revealed that prisoners are tortured, also with mock executions. The rebels used 227 government buildings, 27 medical institutions, 49 universities, 99 schools, 25 sports clubs, 47 judicial buildings and 10 private houses. According to the report 16,804 were the prisoners and enforce disappearances and were all civilians. After field visits the National Committe for Human Rights said released prisoners suffer from poor psycological and physical helath.

 

Astana peace talks on Syria flop after rebel no-show.

BreakingNews @en di

Peace efforts for Syria floundered on March 15 as a third round of talks that were sponsored by Russia and Turkey ended with no progress after rebels refused to show up to a meeting in Kazakhstan.  Regime supporters Russia and Iran along with rebel-backer  Turkey have been pushing negotiations in Astana since January after gains on the ground by Damascus turned the tables in the six-year war. The latest two-day meeting saw a delegation from Damascus meet with representatives from the three powers, but leaders of armed rebel groups stayed away for the first time over alleged violations of a fragile cease-fire deal.

Yemen fighting and suicide bomb kill 48 peolpe in Abyan.

BreakingNews @en di

At the entrance to Nadja Camp in Abyan province’s capital Zinjibar a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle and killed 48 people. The explosives were concealed in the back of a pick-up truck under a pile of firewood but the attacker failed to get trhough the gate. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by al-Qaeda. Moreover in Baida province erupted clashes between pro-government tribes and Shiite Houthi rebels as Houthis tried to take control of a tribal territory and 20 rebels and 6 tribal fighters were killed. 9 more rebels died in clashes in Sawmaa region when tribal fighters launched a surprise attack to their convoy. In fine 5 civilians were killed in Marib during a shelling.

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CAR investigation shows a “weapons pipeline” from Iran to Yemen

Middle East - Africa di

On November 29, the Conflict Armament Research (CAR), British-based research centre primarily funded by the European Union, released a report showing evidence of Iran’s involvement in the smuggling of weapons to the Houthis rebels in Yemen. The analysis is based on the seizure in February and March of weapons from dhows sailing in the Arabian Sea by the Australian warship HMAS Darwin and the French frigate FS Provence, both part of the Joint International Task Force operating in the Horn of Africa in counter-terrorism and counter-piracy activities. This Task Force works independently and separately from the Saudi-led military coalition operating in the same area.

According to the report, HMAS Darwin seized more than 2,000 weapons, including AK-type assault rifles and 100 Iran-made rocket launchers from the dhow directed to Somalia. The seizure by the French frigate includes other 2,000 assault rifles, with those typical features of the Iranian production and 64 Iran-manufactured Hoshdar-M sniper rifles. In addition, nine Russian-made Kornet anti-tank guided missiles were found on board. An additional Kornet seized by forces within the Saudi coalition in Yemen seems to be part of the same production run as those seized by FS Provence.

The report mentions also the seizure by USS Sirocco – US Navy patrol boat- of AK assault rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns from a dhow transiting in the region. The US Navy believed these weapons to come from Iran and be destined to Yemen. To date, however, no additional information has been shared by the US with CAR.

Weapons seized on board seem to match with those seized from the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Crossing serial numbers and weapons model, CAR has drawn three main conclusions about their origin.

First, the Iranian-produced RPG missile launchers -easily identifiable by the olive green color furniture, the cylindrical rear firing grip, and the yellow serial number – were found on several vessels, including those intercepted by HMAS Darwin and Sirocco. Secondly, sniper rifles could come from Iranian stocks. In fact, such a significant number of weapons sequentially numbered suggests the weapons come from a national stockpile rather than from multiple non-state sources. Finally, Iran may have provided anti-tank guided missiles both of own and Russian production.

Given the number of weapons found on board, most of them manufactured in Iran, investigators talk about the existence of a weapons pipeline from Iran to Yemen. Weapons would initially reach Somalia (in the northern region of Puntland) for local weapons markets and then continue the journey towards Yemen, to arming the Houthi rebels, who have been fighting for the past 20 months against the internationally recognized government of President Hadi.

According to CAR, Iran’s involvement in this kind of traffic is a serious violation of the embargo placed by the United Nations on the arms transfer to rebels. In particular, UN Security Council Resolutions No. 2140 (February 2014), No. 2216 (April 2015), and No. 2266 (February 2016), calling on member states to take all necessary measures to prevent this type of transfers. It would not be the first episode of violation of UN Resolutions by the Islamic Republic.

On 23 January 2013, in fact, the USS Farragut intercepts a shipment of 122-mm Katyusha missiles, radar systems, Chinese QW-1M anti-aircraft missiles, and 2.6 tons of RDX explosives on the ship Jihan 1, off the Yemeni coast. The episode violated the stricter UNSCR 1747 (2007), according to which “Iran Shall not supply, sell, or transfer directly or Indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel”.

As in the past, Iran has denied its involvement in these activities, highlighting that its support for the Houthi rebels is only political and diplomatic. However, sources from different Somali ports confirm that the weapons arrive from Iran on large vessels that either come into dock or anchor off the coast, where they are reached by smaller boats, then carrying part of the illicit cargo to other ports in the region. The rest goes to Yemen, in particular to the port of Ash Shihr, east of Mukalla, where they camouflage in the intense maritime traffic that characterizes this area. Further evidence is the very nature of those weapons, uncommon in the Somali arms market.

In conclusion, Iran’s military support for the Houthi rebels is quite evident, despite several warnings received both at the UN and in other regional forums. Patrolling in the waters of the Horn of Africa will continue in order to prevent the supply of arms to the rebels, further fueling the already critical situation in Yemen. However, it would be advisable a future closer coordination and enhanced information sharing among the various actors operating in the field, so they could have a comprehensive picture of Iran’s traffic and be able to tackle more effectively the threat they represent for the stability of the region.

 

Paola Fratantoni

 

Mali: the former rebels and the UN Mission welcomed the "progress" in the implementation of the peace agreement

BreakingNews @en di

Today, the former Tuareg group of rebels in northern Mali and the UN Mission (Minusma) met to implement the peace agreement, expressing the hope of restarting a process that they accumulated for months. Coordination of movements of Azawad (CMA, former rebels) paid tribute to the government which last week adopted the draft decree appointing the members of the interim authorities to manage the five northern administrative regions under agreement.

SA’s retaliation: air strikes hit Sana’a

Defence/Middle East - Africa di

SAUDI-YEMEN-CONFLICT

On September 20, Saudi Arabian authorities authorised air strikes against Houthis rebel positions in the Yemen’s capital Sana’a. Around a dozen bombs or missiles hit the Headquarters of the National Security Bureau -it is the first time since the beginning of the conflict- the defence ministry, a checkpoint in the capital’s north-western suburbs and two rebel military camps in the southeast district of Sanhan.

This attack comes as a response to a missile fired by the rebels on Monday evening. According to Saudi Arabia (SA), the Qaher-1 missile was aimed at SA’s King Khalid Air Base, 60 km north of the Yemeni border, in the city of Khamees Mushait. SA reports the missile was intercepted by the kingdom’s air defence before it could cause any damage to the base and neighbourhood, though Houthis-run Saba News Agency discloses the missile actually hit the target.

Regardless, SA immediately responds to the attack, causing at least one civilian death and some wounded, witnesses said. It is not the first time that the hostilities cause civilian deaths, proving once again the heavy criticism for high civilian death toll since the beginning of the Saudi Arabia-led air campaign.

 

Houthis and government forces have battled on-and-off since 2004 but it was in 2014 that a civil war eventually broke out. Indeed, in September 2014, Houthis -a rebel group known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) that adheres to the branch of Shia Islam called Zaidism- took control of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, and forced President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.

Security forces split in two groups, one supporting the international recognised government, the other backing rebels. The scenario was deeply worsen by the emergence of two other actors. On one hand, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which gained grip in the south and south-east region. On the other, a Yemen affiliate of the Islamic State, which was trying to overrun AQAP and claimed responsibility of some suicide bombings in Sana’a.

Conflict escalated in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and her allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen in order to restore Hadi’s government. Since then, more than 6,600 people have been killed, while the number of displaced people has risen to 3 million.

To date, fighting has not stopped and the situation in Yemen is still unstable. The United Nations often report alarming data on civilian deaths, recently accusing Saudi Arabia-led coalition to be responsible of 2/3 of those and Houthis to be involved in mass civilian casualties due to the siege of the city of Taiz.

In addition, several foreign countries have taken part -though with different means- in the fighting. The international coalition includes SA, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal. United States, United Kingdom and France are supporting the coalition providing supplies, with the US also carrying air strikes targeting ISIS and AQAP positions in Yemen. On the other side, Iran has been accused of arming Houthis rebels, though the country has always denied it.

It should be added that the conflict in Yemen cannot be reduced to a civil war or a terrorist battlefield, but it is the result of several and conflicting dynamics involving multiple actors and opposite interests. Indeed, despite the civil war and the terrorist threat, Yemen is the theatre of the proxy war between the two major powers in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, thus dragging into the scene alliances and games of powers that escalate tensions and foster instability in the region.

 

Paola Fratantoni

 

 

Ukraine, 8 killed again: end of Minsk pact?

Europe di

One soldier and 7 civilians slayed after Donetsk airport’s fights. But Kiev denied and accused pro-Russian rebels.

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Ceasefire in Ukraine is staggering. The last dispute happened on 3rd May. Ukrainian army killed 8 people (1 soldier and 7 civilians) during bombing against Donetsk airport, how reported by separatists. It’s unofficial news, but Kiev Minister of Foreign Affairs publice notice told about “lies” because “pro-Russians rebels fired 35 times against regular soldiers in the last 24 hours”.

Meanwhile, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni, as he said La Stampa, restated that “Italy will substain Kiev if Kiev has to do necessary financial and constitutionalreforms, including Donbass independence”. But “even if we applied economic sanctions against Russia, we know Moscow importance in International crisis areas, like Syria and Libya”, Gentiloni said before Putin visit to Expo in the next days.

Giacomo Pratali

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