Military officer suspended for smuggling weapons to Ansar Al-Sharia

Published on 23 April 2012 in News
Ali Saeed (author)

Ali Saeed

Military officers  accuse former leader of the Southern Military Region of providing weapons to Ansar Al-Sharia in Abyan.

Military officers accuse former leader of the Southern Military Region of providing weapons to Ansar Al-Sharia in Abyan.

SANA’A, April 22 — On Friday, the new commander of the Southern Military Region, General Salem Qatn, who replaced former president Saleh's aide, General Mahdi Maqwala, suspended a military officer accused of smuggling weapons to Ansar Al-Sharia, an Al-Qaeda affiliated militant group, reported state-run newspaper Al-Jomhoriah on Saturday.

It explained that the officer was rendered to the Political Security Headquarters in Aden to investigate his withdrawal of 410 artillery shells from the region’s armory and handing them to units of Ansar Al Sharia in Abyan governorate, south Yemen.

Ansar Al-Sharia, which took control of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, in late May 2011 after security forces abandoned their positions, is said to have links with the former president’s loyal military officials, who colluded with the group to take over parts of Abyan and Shabwa governorate. This is thought to have been done with the aim of terrorizing the West, so it would see Saleh's departure as synonymous with insecurity in Yemen, according to Mohamed Ghazwan, a journalist who was recently in Abyan.

“Through my visits to Al-Qaeda positions in Abyan, their weapons hint that some military officials are indeed colluding with them,” Ghazwan said.

“It is unbelievable that their [Al-Qaeda] tanks continue firing and do not run out of shells. There must be people who supply them with ammunition,” he said.

The Minister of Defense, General Mohamed Naser Ahmed, formed military assets counting committees in early March to keep track of all Yemeni army hardware and human assets, to prevent the transfer of weapons to terrorist organizations.

“If they [Yemeni military leaders] have real intentions of controlling weapons leakage, it is in their hands and can be achieved easily by counting all ammunition,” Ghazwan said.   

Ansar Al-Sharia attacked the 31st Armored Division on the same day when Maqwala left the office to his successor, Qatn, on March 3rd. The militant group then attacked and killed over 150 troops, captured 72, and took over heavy weapons, including tanks.  

Officers and soldiers of the 31st Armored Division accused the former leader of the Southern Military Region Maqwala of providing weapons to Al-Qaeda one day ahead of leaving office.

Other military sources said that the new leadership of the Southern Military Region is still searching for lost military equipment, which disappeared from the region’s armory just 24 hours before Maqwala departed from office.