Sana’a: Yemen’s president has asked his Iranian counterpart to stop backing armed groups on its soil after coastguards seized a consignment of missiles and rockets believed sent by the Islamic Republic, a government official said on Thursday.
Iran has denied any connection to the weapons, found aboard a vessel off the coast on January 23 in an operation coordinated with the US Navy.
But government official Abdul Rashid Abdul Hafez said President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi had contacted Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to demand Tehran stop smuggling in weapons. Hafez gave no further details of the message.
“This is the most dangerous arms shipment being smuggled to Yemen,” Yemeni Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Rahman Hanash told Reuters. “It contained anti-aircraft missiles, C4 high explosives materials which only a few countries in the Middle East possess.”
Yemen, a majority Sunni country, said last week the vessel had been loaded in Iran.
Yemeni state television on Wednesday showed Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtan and National Security Board head Ali Al Ahmadi inspecting the weapons including 122 mm Katyusha rockets, anti-aircraft Strella 1 and 2 missiles, RPG launchers, explosives materials and Iranian-made night vision goggles.
Hanash said that while the investigation into the shipment was still under way, it was certain that the weapons were destined for an insurgent group. He did not name the group.
A source at Hadi’s office said the arms were destined for Al Houthi rebels.
The discovery of the shipment will likely further sour ties between Tehran and Sana’a, already strained over charges that Iran was working with separatists in the south and Al Houthi rebels in the north to further destabilise Yemen as it tries to rebuild after two years of political upheaval.
Yemen said in July it had rounded up a spy ring led by a former commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to the state news agency Saba.