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4 Iranian arms shipments to Yemen stopped: US admiral
by Staff Writers
Dubai (AFP) Oct 27, 2016

US official calls for vigilance against IS refinancing
Riyadh (AFP) Oct 27, 2016 - Vigilance must be maintained against the Islamic State group's ability to finance itself even as it loses territory in Iraq, a senior US treasury official said in Riyadh on Thursday.

"It has the ability to, with relatively small amounts of financial resources, to rebuild capability," said the official, who sought anonymity to speak more freely during a meeting with foreign reporters.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi fighters are advancing on the city of Mosul, the last major city under control of the Sunni extremists in that country.

If Mosul falls, Syria's Raqa will be the only significant city in either Syria or Iraq under IS control, the vestige of a cross-border "caliphate" the jihadists declared after seizing large parts of both countries in mid-2014.

IS, which inspired attacks around the world and whose atrocities included the beheading of foreign hostages and enslaving Yazidi women, derived illicit proceeds from its occupied territory.

A report last year by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force said those sources included bank looting and extortion, control of oil fields and refineries, robbery of economic assets, and kidnapping for ransom.

"Our sense is that we have made considerable progress limiting ISIL's access to multiple forms of ongoing financial support," the official said, using another acronym for IS.

But he added "we are very conscious of the fact that it's a very resilient organisation and a creative one that finds new pathways".

The official said the battle against the finances of IS, also known as ISIL, "is going to remain a very central focus, not just of the GCC countries and the United states but really globally."

Warships from the US Navy and allied nations have intercepted four weapons shipments from Iran to war-ravaged Yemen since April 2015, a US admiral said Thursday.

Yemen has been rocked by conflict since Iran-backed Huthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa and other large parts of the country in 2014, prompting military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition in March last year in support of the internationally recognised government.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of arming the insurgents, and while Tehran denies the charges, the coalition has since enforced maritime and air controls over the Arabian Peninsula country.

"Either US ships or coalition ships... intercepted four weapons shipments from Iran to Yemen," said US Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan.

"We know they came from Iran and we know the destination," he told reporters at an undisclosed military base in Southwest Asia.

Donegal said the shipments contained thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, anti-tank missiles, sniper rifles and "other pieces of other equipment, higher-end weapons systems".

Naval officials were able to determine the destination of the boats' by analysing GPS settings and interviewing the crew.

One of the shipments had been validated by the United Nations as being an illegal weapons shipment, said Donegal.

His comments come after the US military's Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said last week Iran may have played a role in suspected Huthi missile attacks this month against US warships in the Red Sea.

"We believe that Iran is connected to this in some way," Donegan said.

Given the heavy volume of traffic around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf, the three-star admiral said "plenty" of other shipments would have gone through to Yemen.

The arms seizures came after Iran in April 2015 tried in vain to send a convoy of seven ships, guarded by two Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels, to Yemen.

The Shiite Huthi rebels are believed to be behind this month's attacks in which surface-to-surface missiles were fired at the USS Mason on at least two occasions.

In response, US cruise missiles on October 13 struck Huthi radar sites.

The Mason and two other warships were likely targeted in a third missile attack on October 15, but officials have not conclusively confirmed what the threat was or where it was coming from.

- Peace roadmap -

Yemen's conflict has killed nearly 7,000 people, wounded more than 35,000 and displaced at least three million since the Saudi-led coalition launched military operations, according to the United Nations.

The UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, submitted to the rebels in Sanaa on Tuesday a proposal to revive a political process.

The contents have not been made public.

But informed sources say the roadmap calls for agreement on naming a new vice president after the rebels withdraw from the capital Sanaa and other cities, and hand over heavy weapons to a third party.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi would then transfer power to the vice president who would appoint a new prime minister to form a government in which the north and south of Yemen would have equal representation.

The government has remained non-committal, saying it has not received any roadmap for a political settlement.

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