Terrorism

Houthi prisoner confesses to Hizbullah training

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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Newly recruited Houthi fighters chant slogans from the back of a truck during a January 3rd, 2017 gathering in Sanaa to mobilise more fighters. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The recent video confession of a Houthi fighter trained by Hizbullah is further evidence of the close ties and co-operation between the two Iran-backed militias, experts tell Al-Mashareq.

In a video testimony released by the Yemeni National Army on January 11th, a Houthi prisoner confesses to receiving training from a Hizbullah operative.

The prisoner, who had been captured in Yemen's al-Jawf province, said he and 39 other Houthi fighters had received training from a Lebanese artillery and missile expert known as "Sajid" who had fought in Iraq.

Theoretical training took place in Sanaa, with practical training conducted elsewhere, he said, revealing that the trainees were then sent to the battlefronts in al-Jawf, Saada and Hajjah provinces, near the border with Saudi Arabia.

"Hizbullah’s role in providing training and support to the Houthis (Ansarallah) is not new," Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies director Abdul-Salam Mohammed told Al-Mashareq, noting that it dates back to 2004.

The Lebanese militia's role in supporting the Houthis is multifaceted, he said, and includes media, logistical and training support to help the Yemeni militia carry out combat operations, assaults, bombings and other guerrilla warfare.

"Hizbullah has dispatched many trainers to Yemen who trained combat troops," Mohammed said, and has flown Houthi fighters to Beirut and Tehran to develop their capacities and establish a special force with combat training.

Open support for the Houthis

"There is no doubt that Hizbullah has thrown its weight behind the Houthis as the two sides' interests converge," researcher Yassin al-Tamimi told Al-Mashareq, noting that Hizbullah's logistical support for the Houthis is not covert.

"There are videos that showed the presence of Hizbullah experts in Yemen, and they only expose some of that large presence," he said.

The Lebanese militia provides support and expertise to the Houthis to the point that in terms of operations, it can be said that the Houthis are "identical to Hizbullah", al-Tamimi said.

Additionally, the ideological and political propaganda of the Houthis is formulated in Hizbullah's military media cell in southern Beirut, he said.

"Hizbullah is Iran's most powerful, experienced and influential military tool in the region," researcher Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq, noting that it relies on Hizbullah's support in preparing and training other affiliated militias.

"It is also entrusted with many strategic and logistical tasks, including the building and creation of media to support those militias," he said.

Hizbullah has played a significant part in supporting and training the Houthis, he added, noting that in 2011, Hizbullah received thousands of Houthi youth in Lebanon and provided them with militia-related training.

Hizbullah has expertise in militia and guerrilla warfare, he said. The group is experienced in accumulating power, establishing revenue streams and inciting and exploiting sectarianism.

With its efforts to train the Houthis, Hizbullah has sought to transfer this expertise to them, al-Jalil said.

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