Houthi rebel fighters are seen in Sana’a on December 4, 2017. (AFP)

April 2, 2021

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has officially accused the Iran-backed Houthis of harboring Al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorists, with militants from both groups being set free to fight and spread terror among the Yemeni people.

In the wake of a government report revealing the full extent of links between the Houthis, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, the Arab military coalition said on Thursday it had destroyed a Houthi ballistic missile on its launchpad in Yemen, adding that the weapon was being prepared for launch toward the central Yemeni province of Marib.

The 23-page intelligence report submitted to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US permanent representative to the UN and president of the Security Council, the Yemen government said that dozens of Al-Qaeda and Daesh fighters released from prison by the Houthis had joined militia attacks on government-controlled areas, mainly in Marib province. Al-Qaeda and Daesh militants were provided with false documents and sent to government-controlled areas to recruit fighters and militia loyalists.

In the report, released on March 29 and seen by Arab News on Thursday, the Yemeni government said that the Houthis had given other terror operatives shelter in Sanaa and other rebel-controlled areas, and later pushed them into living in liberated areas in an attempt to to discredit the government by linking it with Al-Qaeda.

According to the report — prepared by Yemen’s two major intelligence agencies, the Central Agency for Political Security and the National Security Service — militants have released 252 terrorist prisoners from prisons in the capital and other Houthi-controlled areas in the past three years.

The most prominent Al-Qaeda operative to be freed was Jamal Mohammed Al-Badwai, suspected mastermind of the deadly attack on the US Navy destroyer USS Cole, who died in a US drone strike in Marib in January 2019.

As part of a secret deal between the Houthis and Al-Qaeda, the militia gave Al-Badwai a forged ID and smuggled him into government-controlled Marib to undermine security in the province and stoke opposition to the government.

The Houthis also released Sami Fadhl Dayan, who was jailed for plotting to assassinate an army commander in 2012; Mayad Al-Hammadi, an Al-Qaeda figure who masterminded a deadly suicide attack that killed more than 100 soldiers during a military parade rehearsal in May 2012; and Maher Al-Ramim, a member of an Al-Qaeda cell that sought to kill the Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in 2013.

At present, the report said, the Houthis are providing shelter to 55 Al-Qaeda militants who had been put on trial before the militia takeover in late 2014.

The militants include Jassim Awadh Barefaa and Hisham Bawazir, also known as Tariq Al-Hadrami. Both men faced a Yemeni court in Hadramout province in 2010 on charges of joining Al-Qaeda and are now living well-furnished flats in Sanaa.

“This report also exposes the falsehood of allegations by these militias that seek to stigmatize those Yemeni people and the national armed forces who stand against them by accusing them of belonging to Al-Qaeda and Daesh,” it said.

In the early days of their Marib offensive in January 2019, the Houthis struck a deal with Al-Qaeda and released five terror operatives who were allowed to advance toward government-controlled areas.

The Al-Qaeda militants later provided the militia with intelligence on a number of government locations, the report said.

Based on intelligence information and interviews with captured militants, the report said that Al-Qaeda and Daesh militants frequently join Houthi attacks on government-controlled areas, mainly in Marib.

One Al-Qaeda fighter, Musa Nassir Ali Hassan Al-Melhani, who was captured by the Yemeni army, admitted “the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters within the Houthi militia” and said they are taking part in the mobilization of fighters in Sanaa.

“The report proves beyond any reasonable doubt the depth of the relationship between the criminal Houthi militia and the terrorist organizations (Al-Qaeda and Daesh),” the report concluded.

Yemeni army commanders and experts said that they had been aware of the Houthi links with Al-Qaeda and Daesh for the past six years.

However, they said that cooperation between the terrorist groups had intensified since early last month when the Houthis resumed their offensive to capture Marib city, the Yemeni government’s last bastion in northern Yemen.

“There is a great integration between the Houthis and the other terrorist organizations. Al-Qaeda and Daesh militants are standing side by side with the Houthis and that can be seen clearly during fighting in Al-Bayda,” Abdu Abdullah Majili, Yemen’s army spokesman, told Arab News on Thursday.

Arab News

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.