Exclusive: U.N. monitors see arms reaching Somalia from Yemen, Iran

Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:23pm EST
 
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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - As the United States pushes for an end to the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia, U.N. monitors are reporting that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation are receiving arms from distribution networks linked to Yemen and Iran, diplomats told Reuters.

The U.N. Security Council's sanctions monitoring team's concerns about Iranian and Yemeni links to arms supplies for al Shabaab militants come as Yemen is asking Tehran to stop backing armed groups on Yemeni soil. Last month Yemeni coast guards and the U.S. Navy seized a consignment of missiles and rockets the Sanaa government says were sent by Iran.

According to the latest findings by the monitoring group, which tracks compliance with U.N. sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea, most weapons deliveries are coming into northern Somalia - that is, the autonomous Puntland and Somaliland regions - after which they are moved farther south into Shabaab strongholds.

The supply chains in Yemen are largely Somali networks in that country, council diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

"In Galguduud (central Somalia), Shabaab received arms, including IED (improvised explosive device) components," a Security Council diplomat said, referring to one of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group's most recent confidential reports. Several other council diplomats confirmed his remarks.

Other weapons supplied included PKM machine guns, said the group's monthly report for January.

The monitors were scheduled to informally brief Security Council members on Friday but the meeting was canceled due to a major snowstorm, diplomats said. The U.N. monitors favor a gradual easing of the arms embargo rather lifting it as the Americans and the Somali government advocate, the diplomats said.

Yemen is proving to be of central importance for arming Shabaab, the monitors' reporting shows, both because it is feeding arms into northern Somalia and because it has become a playing field for Iranian interests in Somalia and elsewhere.   Continued...