Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi Image Credit: EPA

Al Mukalla: Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi ordered on Thursday the governor of the southern province of Shabwa, security services and army officials to step up security measures off the province’s coasts to put an end to spiralling smuggling of oil and people into the country.

Prompted by confirmed information that a small seaport in the province is being used to smuggle arms and fuel to the Al Houthis, Hadi met senior government officials in his palace in Aden and asked them to use “all means” at their disposal to stop the smuggling. The governor of Shabwa Abdullah Al Nasi did not respond to Gulf News’ calls, but an official who was briefed by the governor on the outcome of the meeting told Gulf News that Hadi was “very annoyed”.

“He promised to order the recruitment of 3,000 new personnel into the army and 4,000 others in security services,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Residents and officials said that since the departure of Al Houthis from most parts of the province in August, a number of well known figures linked to the party of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh have used the small and historical Bayda seaport, in the district of Radhoum to smuggle fuel and arms into the country and then carry them in trucks to Al Houthi-controlled areas. “They smuggle everything: fuel, Africans (migrants), arms and drugs,” the official said.

In the meeting, the official complained to Hadi that they lack arms and equipment to confront the operation. They proposed that Hadi ask the Saudi-led warplanes to attack oil ships and tankers off the coast of Shabwa and demanded arms for two army brigades — the 2nd Mountain Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Naval Infantry Brigade, which are stationed along the coastline. “The president asked them to first use armed forces under their command or even call for help from resistance fighters and tribes to stop the smuggling,” the official said. In the meeting, Hadi said that he would raise the issues of sending arms to the two brigades and attacking the ships and trucks with the coalition. “We want the coalition and president to identify the source of fuel and arms to Yemen.”

The official said that the smugglers mostly bring diesel to the country apparently needed for heavy vehicles and tanks. “There are 100 to 150 trucks leaving the seaport everyday, most of them cross into Al Houthis-controlled areas, including their stronghold Saada in northern Yemen. They also smuggle at least 200 young Africans aged from 18 to 35 [each day].”