International investigators have found a suspected "weapon pipeline" from Iran through Somalia to Yemen where the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) are battling the government, AFP reported Wednesday (November 30th).
The analysis, revealed in a new report by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) is based on the seizure in February and March this year of weapons from dhows in the Arabian Sea.
CAR analysed photographs of weapons confiscated from the dhows by the Australian warship HMAS Darwin and the French frigate FS Provence. The ships were part of a joint international task force that operates separately from the coalition battling the Houthis.
HMAS Darwin seized more than 2,000 weapons, including AK-type assault rifles and 100 Iranian-manufactured rocket launchers, from the dhow bound for Somalia, CAR said.
The seizure by FS Provence included 2,000 assault rifles "characteristic of Iranian manufacture" and 64 Iranian-made sniper rifles, as well as nine Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, it said.
UAE forces reported recovering in Yemen a Kornet which CAR said is part of "the same production run" as those on the dhow. This "supports allegations that the weapons originated in Iran and that the dhow's cargo was destined for Yemen," CAR said.
French government sources said the dhow was headed to Somalia "for possible transhipment to Yemen," CAR said.
Light machine guns were found with the same serial number sequence on both dhows, "which suggests that the materiel derived from the same original consignment", the report added.
It also referred to the US Navy's seizure from a dhow in March of AK-type assault rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns destined for Yemen that are thought to have originated in Iran.
Two of the dhows were made by Al Mansoor of Iran, CAR said.
Although their findings were "relatively limited," the investigators said their analysis "suggests the existence of a weapon pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen".
It said that traffickers offload weapons in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia "for local arms markets or as transhipment points for onward supply to Yemen".