Qatari-Omani moves undermine Arab alliance in Yemeni province

Preliminary investigations revealed that the Qatari regime is involved in delivering weapons to the former Mahrah governor.
Monday 28/01/2019
A map locating Mahrah. (The Arab Weekly)
A map locating Mahrah. (The Arab Weekly)

LONDON - Omani-Qatari coordination at the highest level is working to inflame the situation in Mahrah province in eastern Yemen and incite the local population against the Arab alliance forces, sources said.

Unidentified sources pointed out that the campaign targeting the coalition peaked after Saudi forces began overseeing security and obstructed smuggling activities, mostly meant to supply Houthi militias.

The sources said Muscat instructed tribal sheikhs and military and social figures it controls in Mahrah, which borders Oman, to protest the Arab alliance and Saudi forces.

Yemeni media reported the seizure in Mahrah of smuggled weapons believed meant for a tribal leader with ties with Doha. Yemeni security forces in Mahrah seized three vehicles carrying weapons, including rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, the sources said.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the Qatari regime is involved in delivering weapons to the former Mahrah governor, who is the leading force behind protests against the Arab alliance.

The discovery of the weapons came after statements by the former security director of Mahrah, aired on Al Jazeera, threatening Saudi forces in the province.

Security authorities in Aden province announced the seizure of 1 tonne of hashish camouflaged on a truck carrying vegetables. The truck was from Mahrah. Yemeni authorities said it was the third drug shipment seized in January.

Yemeni security authorities in Jawf and Marib governorates seized large quantities of weapons, communications equipment and spare parts for drones allegedly en route from Mahrah to Houthi militias.

The deployment of Saudi forced in Mahrah angered tribal and political leaders in the governorate with connections to Muscat and Doha. The Saudi forces installed equipment to detect metal and drugs at the Shahn and Sarfit crossing on the Omani-Yemeni border.

The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights and Mahrah authorities denied a report of human rights violations by Saudi forces. The allegation, published by Al Jazeera, was attributed to the office of the Ministry of Human Rights in Mahrah.

The source said Mahrah Governor Rajeh Bakrit last August fired the province’s director of the Human Rights Office, Ali bin Afrar. Yemeni Minister of Human Rights Mohamed Askar had decided to refer the former director to a court investigation for alleged violations of legal and administrative procedures and regulations.

Mahrah authorities issued a statement of their disapproval of “the false accusations reported by the Qatari channel, which were aimed at harming the local authority in Mahrah and the Arab alliance countries.” The statement said the media campaign “was clearly instigated by other countries with the aim of spreading malicious and ridiculous lies.”

“The local authorities are devoted to continuing to carry out the tasks entrusted to [them] by providing services and improving the conditions of the province in all areas, and with the generous support of the Arab alliance countries led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” added the statement.

Rushdie Muayli, director general of media and public relations in Mahrah province, did not rule out that Qatar was behind the report.

To counter suspected Houthi infiltrations from Muscat and Doha, Bakrit issued a circular to government agencies to secure the approval of the Office of Social Affairs and Labour before dealing with foreign organisations.

Many Houthi leaders reside in Oman, the most notable of whom is Mohammed Abdul Salam, head of the Houthi negotiating delegation. Recent reports claim Abdul Salam plays an important role in financing the Houthi rebels through his oil company Yemen Life, which is alleged to be a front company for Iranian financing, as revealed in a UN report.