Arab coalition convoy attacked in Yemen's al-Mahrah

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Tribal gunmen loyal to the Houthis protest with their weapons during a gathering in the capital Sanaa on March 16th, 2019. Arab coalition forces have deployed to the Shahn crossing on the border with Oman to limit the smuggling of Iranian weapons to the Houthis. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

A military convoy of Arab coalition and special operations forces came under attack in eastern Yemens' al-Mahrah province, leaving one officer and four soldiers dead, provincial officials said Tuesday (February 25th).

"The [Arab] coalition and special operations battalion forces were on a routine daily search mission to evaluate the security situation at the Shahn crossing," al-Mahrah province's media centre said in a statement.

"But before arriving at the Fujit junction, they came under a treacherous attack involving a thermal missile that targeted one of the vehicles," it said.

The missile killed one officer and four soldiers and injured another, the statement said.

The attack came two days after President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed Mohammed Ali Yasser as a new governor for the province, replacing Rajeh Bakreet.

Yemeni government and Arab coalition forces have deployed to the Shahn land crossing on the Omani border to help stop the smuggling of Iranian weapons to the Houthis (Ansarallah).

One of the main routes for smuggling Iranian weapons to the Houthi militia is through Oman territories, according to a recent UN report.

Al-Mahrah's local authority condemned the "terrorist" attack in the strongest terms and said it represented a serious development that would "disturb the secure and stable atmosphere in al-Mahrah, which has always been far away from chaos and conflicts".

"The armed and security forces, in co-operation with the Saudi-led Arab coalition, will spare no effort to preserve security and stability and strongly deal with outlaws and disturbers of public peace and security in the province," it said.

Meanwhile, al-Mahrah tribes and the al-Mahrah peaceful committee denied any involvement in the attack and expressed concern over "the security chaos".

The committee blamed the attack on the dismissed governor, saying "he formed armed militias that were acting beyond the army and security forces and that were behind such incidents".

Clamping down on arms smuggling

Various reports indicate that the Shahn crossing has turned into one of the most important routes for smuggling weapons to the Houthis.

"The planned deployment of Arab coalition forces to the Shahn crossing on the border between Yemen and Oman has fueled tensions in [al-Mahrah]... as it will limit the smuggling of Iranian weapons to the Houthis," political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"The UN experts report noted that Iranian weapons seem to have been sent to the Houthis through a smuggling route overland from Oman and via the Arabian Sea," he said.

"Security and army forces in Marib province [east of Sanaa] have seized more than one shipment of smuggled arms en route to the Houthis from eastern Yemen," he added.

The presence of Arab coalition forces at the Shahn crossing will help reduce Iran's influence and its smuggling operations that serve to prolong the conflict in Yemen, he said.

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