http://almashareq.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_am/features/2019/03/20/feature-02

Security |

Iranian experts train Houthis to target Red Sea ships: Yemeni army

Yemeni fishermen sit in their boats in the Red Sea waters off the embattled port city of al-Hodeidah on January 1st. Iran has been training the Houthis on how to target ships passing through the Red Sea, the Yemeni army spokesman said. [AFP/Stringer]

Iranian experts are training the Houthis (Ansarallah) in al-Hodeidah province on targeting ships and laying booby-traps along international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdo Abdullah Majali said Monday (March 18th).

"We have intelligence that confirms that Iranian experts are training the Houthis on how to target ships by using self-guided boats on the coast of al-Luheyah district, north of al-Hodeidah," he said in televised statements.

"Training is taking place near the islands of Tlawin and al-Malak, and the Khor al-Alawi area whose farms the Houthis are using to hide weapons and set up training camps," he said.

Majali urged commercial ships passing through the Red Sea to be extra cautious, saying that the Houthi militias "may be plotting a terrorist disaster".

This development represents "a major threat to international shipping, and must be dealt with seriously", political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

Through training Houthis in targeting shipping routes, Iran seeks to gain influence along the Red Sea coast to "threaten the region's security and extort the international community", he said.

"The Red Sea is one of the most vital waterways in the world," he said, "and any threat to it will pose a threat to international interests."

Al-Jalil urged the international community "to deal firmly with the Houthis" so as not to allow Iran's influence to expand.

Houthi threat to maritime security 'increased'

A report by the UN Sanctions Committee for Yemen in February said the threat the Houthis pose to maritime security in the Red Sea has increased, noting that the militia owns anti-ship missiles, naval mines and self-guided explosives-laden boats.

The threat to commercial transport in the Red Sea has significantly increased in 2018, the report said, although the total number of accidents was not higher than in 2017.

The Houthis have targeted oil tankers and ships belonging to the Arab coalition and international relief organisations, it said.

The Iran-backed militia has launched repeated attacks on oil tankers "loaded with 2.2 million barrels of crude oil", it added. "Any of these attacks might have led to an environmental and economic disaster in Yemen and the region."

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