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Amnesty accuses UAE of diverting arms to "militias" in Yemen

09 February 2019

CNN reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its main partner in the coalition, have transferred USA -made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters and other groups and that some of the weapons also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels, exposing sensitive technology to Iran.

Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive, backed by the UAE and other partners, in Yemen in 2015 to root out the country's Houthi rebels, who had taken over the capital, Sanaa, and ousted Yemen's Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

"Saudi Arabia and the UAE have used the US-manufactured weapons as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape", CNN said in a report Monday, citing local commanders on the ground and analysts.

A new open-source investigation published by Amnesty International today has highlighted how the United Arab Emirates is arming out-of-control militias operating in Yemen with a range of advanced weaponry - much of it sourced from Western countries, including the UK.

Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Wednesday that he was troubled by reports over illicit weapons transfers to armed groups.

Other weapons used by UAE-allied militias in Hodeidah include Serbian-made Zastava MO2 Coyote machine guns and the Agrab armoured-truck-mounted Singaporean 120mm mortar system - the UAE is the only country known to purchase this combined weapon system.

The US is by far the biggest supplier of arms to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and its support is crucial to the Saudi-led coalition's continuing war in Yemen.

The US state department said it was under the process of investigating the allegations.

President Donald Trump's administration opposed numerous bills, calling the Saudis important regional partners and praising weapons sales as an important source of U.S.jobs.

Committee's top Republican Michael McCaul called Khashoggi's murder a "major setback" in the Saudi-US ties and deplored casualties in Yemen.

"It can no longer be business as usual".

Despite the foreign-policy dispute between Congress and the White House, the House and Senate are expected to vote on whether to withdraw US support for Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen. "We need to push for a real change in Saudi behavior".

An worldwide rights group urged Western governments on Wednesday to stop supplying weapons to parties to the conflict in Yemen after reports that they were ending up in the hands of extremist groups.

Amnesty is calling on all countries to halt arms transfers to all parties to the Yemen conflict while there is a substantial risk they would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of worldwide humanitarian and human rights law.

Amnesty accuses UAE of diverting arms to